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Well-weathered wisdom

I’ve never lived in a place where people were so concerned about the weather as they are in England. This is probably the result of never knowing quite what to expect. In America, especially on the East Coast, predictions seem pretty dependable by comparison; after all, the weather systems have a whole continent to cross (during which time they can be examined en route) before they fall upon you. Mistakes occur, of course, but usually not big ones, and not all that often.

In England, on the other hand, we have to take what we often unexpectedly get. The Meteorological Office–always known simply as the Met Office–has begun offering five-day forecasts in a gingerly way, but in my experience they are fairly useless. Longer-range forecasts–that it will be an “iron” winter, for example–are hardly worth bothering about.

In the past, of course, the English lacked even the Met Office to tell them about visibility off Rockall or the likelihood of rain in Suffolk by dawn Wednesday. What they had instead was a vast and baroque system of folk knowledge about the weather, incorporated in axioms and sayings of splendid inconsistency. Americans will recognize some of them (more…)