When I began this web-site I was determined to post upon it only interesting articles about interesting and/or unusual experiences, events and places. Keeping to this criteria, how can I possibly write about the weather? Climate change, a serious subject, yes, the weather, that conversational staple, no. Except the weather, even here in London, has become unusual and, somewhat scarily, interesting. This isn’t just pathetic fallacy either.
Since literature began, but especially since the Romantics, weather has been used to signify mood and emotion. Dickens has much to answer for. How many versions of fog appear at the beginning of ‘Bleak House‘? Then there is the fog in ‘Our Mutual Friend‘ and at the start of ‘Great Expectations‘ out on the marshes. His fellow Victorians, the Brontes, used all kinds of weather, the most oft quoted being the ‘wild and windy’ moor in ‘Wuthering Heights‘ ( thank you, Kate Bush ).
Storms are regular plot devices, as well as metaphors. Witness Marianne’s storm-bound wanderings in ‘Sense and Sensibility‘ or the stormy shipwrecks in ‘Twelfth Night‘ or ‘The Tempest‘. There are frequent appearances of thunder, hail and other violent weather phenomena in Shakespeare to signify a world ‘out of joint’ and as a precursor to some momentous event or deed ( usually, but not exclusively a killing e.g. King Duncan, Julius Caesar or a battle e.g. in ‘Richard III’ ).
So, if extreme or unusual weather is a signifier, what does it signify in London here and now? In the past weeks we have had warm, sunny days prompting the flowering of many plants; hail, sleet and high winds to destroy their blossom and violent thunderstorms and rain. Oh, and yesterday, some snow. It is now very cold.
I do not recall any of these phenomena before previous London Mayoral elections, so, I fear to tell you, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, you are not sufficiently momentous to be the cause. More likely, our historic event could be the EU Referendum. Could Brexit be to blame? I could blame much on Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, those twins of turpitude, brothers in bluster, but fear that this grants them too much importance. ( Who am I to quibble, the latter could be the next leader of the Conservative party, given his own o’er-weaning ambition and Titanic-sized self-estimation and with the slavering support of a supine media? ) Golly, this extreme metaphorical stuff really takes a hold.
At the moment both camps seem to be competing to paint the bleakest picture. In part because the ‘Remain’ camp seems to have to adopted the scare tactics that were used successfully in the Scottish Referendum and because the ‘Exit’ campaign is fundamentally a negative one. The problem for them is that the world has moved on since the 1950s and they really can’t know what will happen if we leave. Even when they try to reach for a future of sunny uplands, as Michael Gove did recently, along comes a pesky President of the United States to gainsay him and pour extremely cold water on his claims.
I search in vain for the ‘Remain’ campaign’s articulation of all the positive reasons why we should stay in. But current psephological wisdom suggests that it’s the negative campaign that wins the vote, so that’s what we get, which is sad. Instead I will go looking for the golden daffodils which have, finally, managed to flower on Clapham Common. Off I wander.
For non-UK readers – the London Mayoral Election takes place on May 5th, 2016. The Referendum to determine whether or not Britain stays or leaves the European Union takes place on 23rd June, 2016.