Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let us hope the harbingers of climate-change doom are wrong

"I was born in the fine city of Limerick, Ireland, on the mighty Shannon. You could say I spent my youth surrounded by water"
Nigel Griffiths, 63, from Throney, Somerset, walks his dog Cassie as rain begins to fall heavily on the already flooded Somerset Levels

Pictures last week of a storm-tossed Britain and the Duke of Edinburgh marching resolutely to church, his umbrella seeming to carry him along like Mary Poppins, reflected the disenchantment with our wet and excessively windy winter that I shrewdly discerned among my radio listeners last Sunday.

Complaining about the weather is part and parcel of everyday conversation in our temperate climate, where anything more than a light breeze, a drizzle of rain or the odd snowflake can bring the country to a halt. My listeners’ gripes were softened, however, by a couple listening in supposedly continuously sunny Barbados, who told us that it was raining cats and dogs there. It’s not without its own significance that the only time I spent in Barbados, it rained steadily for a week, and before you say anything, it was during the high season. Then, to further discomfort the complainers, a listener from the other end of the world, Auckland, New Zealand, bade us be of good cheer, for it was thundering and lightning like billy-o even as we spoke, in his corner of the Land of the Long White Cloud.

We rarely get it in the neck from the weather. We’re spoilt, and when things do get serious, we’re slow to get jerked from our complacency and do something about it. Leaves on the line, rivers breaking their banks, trees blown down across the roads, have all happened before, but always seem to come as a surprise. Let us devotedly hope that the harbingers of climate-change doom are not right, because we’ll never cope with forest fires, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes or earthquakes.

I was born in the fine city of Limerick, Ireland, on the mighty Shannon. You could say I spent my youth surrounded by water, as it seemed to rain every day. I cycled to school in it, played rugby in it, swam in the river in it. A wonderful film, Angela’s Ashes, reflected my life then, and the main reaction I got from people who’d seen it was disbelief, not at the poverty, but the steady downpour of rain that permeated the film. I had to reassure them that it was true to life, if a little understated.

On the wonderful golf links of Lahinch in County Clare, they keep a weather eye on the goats that crop the fairways. If they are sheltering in the lee of the clubhouse it means rain. The members play on. “That’s a soft day,” they’ll say, and that’s the way I’ve always looked on it.

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