Monday, 14 October 2019

A Few Words About The Rain

Adam writes…

Rain. It’s A London Thing.

Sorry. But it just is.

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. A few years back I met a visitor from Austin, Texas who breezily announced to me as she joined my walking tour: “This is my third new jacket since I arrived!”

To my knowledge, she 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 London Walks tour 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 we 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. And the Statistics. All far more useful tools than an umbrella.

During our recent spell of fine soft weather here in London, I have often been 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, FW&AF is a London movie.

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 London 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 tour guests seem to say every day: is it raining? I hadn’t noticed.

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

But hardy Londoners and visitor who join us in the rain are the best London Thing of all.

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