After yet another few days of wall to wall sunshine and the mercury climbing to 32oC at times, the forecast of rain was most welcome. So welcome, I sat under the garden decks glass canopy to watch the huge rolling cumuli crowd out the sunset, wiping the perspiration from my face with a towel. The humidity was oppressive. The light rain, when it arrived, drew the cocker and the lurcher from their sanctuary in front of the indoor tower fan. Old Dylan, the lurcher, sniffed the air and his deaf ears lifted to listen for the thunder he sensed was imminent. As a sapling, he was terrified of thunderstorms and would whine incessantly an hour before they arrived and another hour after they’d gone. Age, of course, taught him that they were harmless and before his deafness and blindness he would stand by me in field and wood to enjoy the dramatic spectacle that is a British summer storm. I have never feared the threat of lightning. In fact, the older I get, the more I feel that a thunderbolt would be a splendid way for a countryman or woman to end their days. The cocker, Charlie wasn’t interested in either rain or storm. He was engaged in his usual cartoon-style cat hunting routine; sniffing the air and jerking his head at every rustle in the shrubbery. Not the rustle of tabby but the shuffle of blackbird and robin seeking early refuge.
The subtle downpour soon had a calming effect on my surroundings. The myriad fruit flies that had beleaguered us for days simply vanished. The legion of angry wasps suffering hyperphagia (where the queen has banished them from the nest to fend for themselves while her eggs hatch) retreated. The woodpigeons that had been feuding over our bird bath flew off to take roost. Sitting beneath my shelter I reflected on how much we in Britain take the rain for granted. Though recent events may have changed that indifference temporarily, it won’t be long before we Brits are complaining about the rain again.
The long drought we have endured in many parts has taken a heavy toll. Crop growth has been restricted, pasture vital to livestock grazing has been decimated, reservoirs have dried up, de-oxygenated rivers and lakes have killed fish stocks. Wild fires have been rife. The roots and trunks of trees have been parched, making them less pliant and stable when faced with heavy winds. The woodland floors are littered with leaf fall two months ahead of autumn proper. Talks of hosepipe bans are rife and tonight’s precipitation will contribute too little and too late to change that threat.
Yet what if tonight’s rain hadn’t come? What if this current weather trend is set to become the norm for our once green and pleasant land … as many meteorologists are predicting? What if, one day in the future, the rains never come again?
As I sit here now in shelter enjoying the percussion of the raindrops, a delicious scent tickles my olfactory senses. The unique aroma of geosmin, released by earth-based bacteria when water touches them. Another reason I will never complain about the rain; Mother Natures life-blood.
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, August 2018