Upside: this is a beautiful, lush green place in which to live.
Downside: it rains – a lot*.
As a nation, we in the UK are used to rain, but we are never prepared for it. We have a national summer sport which relies heavily upon something we very seldom get: up to five consecutive rain-free days. The enduring image of an English Test Match is that of the covers being pulled over the wicket and water being pumped into the drains as the last few sturdy supporters struggle to make hats out of soggy newspaper. How often do we get through a fortnight of Wimbledon without a long and excitable TV discussion about how efficiently the courts are covered at the advent of a downpour? These are sports that rely upon dry conditions, and the only logical place to play them here is in the pub. When Test Matches and Wimbledon coincide (as oft they do) the price of tarpaulin goes through the roof. Insurance companies withdraw all investment from North Sea Gas fields and search for an umbrella manufacturer to support. If it is essential for us to have an outside national summer sport, we should consider bog-snorkelling or mud wrestling, but no, we have cricket and tennis, the only two sports known to humankind that become totally unplayable in the rain.
We know what to expect from the British Climate – it forms the basis of all conversation in this country – and yet the vast majority of any summer sporting audience will turn up with no method of fending off a downpour other than the plastic bag in which they brought their sandwiches. I have myself spent many hours at Silverstone draped in a black plastic bin liner watching a slow motion procession of Formula 1 cars locatable only from the dense cloud of spray that follows them and totally engulfs all that is behind them. Have I ever had a hat that does not disintegrate in the rain? No. Instead I have had mirrored sunglasses and jeans that are capable of absorbing a bathful of cold water until the moment I sit in the car to drive home, when they release it in an instant.
So, what do we do when the sky turns black and the heavens open upon us with a force that has not been experienced for… well, sometimes for days? Well, we sing. We do that a lot. Loudly and tunelessly. We troop off to get a pint of beer that refills much quicker than we can drink it, and then we return to our seats lest we should miss something should the monsoon ever abate. We carefully observe the people in charge of the covers, reading the weather forecast with every twitch of their readied sinew. These people can get the covers off – and often on again – even quicker than the weather can change. They are highly tuned athletes in their own right. They are capable of 0-60 in less time than it takes a sodden F1 crew to change a tyre; they can drag a huge tarpaulin faster and further than Ben Stokes can swipe the ball; they can raise a court-covering canopy quicker than a normal mortal can fortify a watered-down Pimms with a swift glug from the hip-flask – and all whilst wearing shorts and a T-shirt. When your only job is to be prepared for the rain, why on earth would you possibly wear a coat?
*Normally. The current heatwave has been accompanied by a long dry spell that has left cars unwashed, hanging baskets unwatered and everybody else’s lawn looking as bad as my own. Every cloud…