I listened this week to a radio program by Iain Sinclair about weather. He talked about our loss of weather; about how we (the city dwellers) live our lives in boxes made out of brick, metal, concrete and glass. How the weather is no longer relevant to us (until it ‘goes wrong’). Our weather comes to us brokered by professional weather forecasters. Yet, “We are in weather and we are weather”. Interesting that (apparently) creative writing teachers tell pupils not to include weather in their writing but in Victorian literature weather was a character in its own right and set the scene (“It was a dark and stormy night”!) The Victorians were aware of their weather, whereas to us it is something outside of the main stream of our existence, like what’s on the telly (on the other side of glass and possible to turn away from – draw the curtains; turn the telly off). Weather is like the stream of time; like the surface of time.
As a cyclist I can reflect on my own experience of weather. Weather exists in two narrow strips, one at the beginning and one at the end of the day, when I cycle to and from work. If it’s fine I don’t tend to notice it; often it opposes me. This week, it threatened to blow us off course and into the paths of vehicles, so Ioana and I took the bus to work and back. Actually, we walked part of the way, which enabled us to enjoy the wind. But at least we were out in it and are usually out in it, even if just for narrow strips of time. Weather doesn’t engender tourism. Nobody goes to see weather, like they go to see landscapes, though weather is always a part of the landscapes people go to see. Weather is too unreliable.
The radio program included an interview with a man with a phobia of weather. This man couldn’t do anything until he had listened to the weather forecast. He was afraid to open the curtains. He described wanting to curl up into a very small ball because of weather (any weather, it seemed). In an odd way I can understand the fear. There is something uncanny and ‘other’ about the weather. It is not for nothing that we sometimes describe a sky as ‘threatening’. If it was a malign (sentient) force, what a terrible force it would be: always above you, looking down at you and in a position to reach down and pluck you up. When I was a child I used to like to imagine that the sky was some terrible monster that I had to get indoors and away from as quickly as I could. But how safe can you be indoors from the weather? The power of the sky is in it’s look, in it’s malignant eye, and it can see in through windows and thin curtains. It affects the inside too. It is in you as well.
I just started reading a book of poems by Roy Fisher. Weather is here too. Here is a poem called Leaving July:
Low crippled clouds drag on a naked sky
over night leaves that point
ravines of darkest green down steeply
from the pale plateau of glaucous twilight;
the sky flattens on the land and gazes
back up into itself with rainwater eyes
out of blue rutted sockets on a builder’s site:
it levels along the wires and the stump arms
of telegraph poles, almost at cool-tiled house-height
where long roofs make a floor for shallow midnight.
I also like these lines from another poem:
The night slides like a thaw
And oil-drums bang together.