Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The Rain It Raineth…

Adam writes…

Rain. It’s A London Thing.

Sorry. But it just is.

As a walking tour guide, how can I spin this P.R disaster?

My own personal modus operandi when questioned about the alleged inclemency of the weather – keep in mind that I am from Scotland – is this:

Rain? You think this is rain? YOU THINK THIS IS RAIN?! Where I come from rain can be sliced as it falls and spread on a sandwich.”

My suggestion is not merely to “lighten up”. It’s more than that. It’s a philosophical thing. A piece of old Irish wisdom can help. A pal of mine from The Mainland (as he calls the Emerald Isle) uses a grand old Irish phrase to rise above the weather. Gazing out at a wet landscape, he simply sighs, “It’s a fine, soft day.”

And with this sooth he is superior to the weather. He wins.

A fine soft day. Quite so.

My countryman, comedian Billy Connolly, once observed that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. As a visitor from Austin, Texas breezily announced to me as she joined one of my tours recently: “This is my third new jacket since I arrived!”

This hardy visitor, to my knowledge, is still up on her hind legs despite a little rainfall on a walking tour. It’s all in the attitude.

Similarly, another walker – coincidentally also from Texas, this time Dallas – informed me that his home town was basking in temperatures way up in the 30s (Celsius). This while we fought our way through Spitalfields in a torrential downpour. Was he downcast? Hell no. He was laughing. Actually laughing out loud.

There's a tour guide underneath there… somewhere

I am constantly asked by timid types, “Do you do your walks in the rain?”

My reply is always, “Yes, of course I do.”

But what I really want to say is: “It’s ONLY RAIN. Samuel Pepys walked the streets of London during the plague. THE PLAGUE for the love of God.”

A bit of perspective is what’s required. Along with the Attitude. And the Philosophy. All far more useful tools than an umbrella.

During our spells of fine soft weather here in London, I am often reminded of one of my favourite London films. Four Weddings And A Funeral is set broadly in a Hollywood-friendly Englandshire, but the capital shooting locations root it deeply in the fabric of our city – from the South Bank to St Bartholomew’s Church, Smithfield.

It is the movie’s denouement, set in the immediate aftermath of the St Bart’s scene that has been haunting my reverie:

Exterior. A London Street.

It is raining. Not the kind of Hollywood rain that Gene Kelly would dance (and sing) through. This is RAIN. Raindrops the size of Brussels sprouts. Like King Lear on the blasted heath on his way to hitch a ride with Noah. Charles (Hugh Grant) pursues Carrie (Andie MacDowell) through the rain.


(*And if you haven’t seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, one question: Why?)

It rains. Charles professes his love. It rains. Carrie hers. It rains. They kiss. It rains.

Charles: “It’s raining.”

Carrie: “Is it? I hadn’t noticed.”

At which point the whole cinema audience heaves a big, goofy groan at the most hilariously corny moment in the history of British cinema.

Except walking tour guides don’t groan. To us, this is a moment of Cinéma Vérité. We applaud the accuracy of the observation that would put the post-war Italian Neorealist directors to shame.

Because that’s what London visitors seem to say every day: is it raining? I hadn’t noticed.

Rain. It’s A London Thing. Everyone knows that.

But walkers who who join me despite the rain are the best London Thing of all.

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