Once, years ago, I complained when it began snowing. My then very young, probably pre-school daughter, protested, ‘The man on the radio said snow showers GOOD.’ She’d absorbed the shipping forecast. I use this anecdote not to embarrass my daughter but to illustrate how from our earliest years we are influenced by the weather, and by the rituals of the shipping forecast and the weather reports. As Mabey says, we’re all in the weather together. Of course we should be preoccupied. It’s the one circumstance of life which we share in common. It affects our bodies, our moods, our behaviour, the structure of our environments. It can change the cost of living and the likelihood of death. It is a kind of common language itself.
Turned Out Nice Again was a Kindle Daily Deal, which I thought would be worth 99p. It’s a very short book – you can read it in half an hour – but yes, I did think it was worth it. As usual with Mabey’s books, it’s very personal and contains many examples of his own experiences of weather, extreme or otherwise. It’s beautifully written. Of the shipping forecast, for example, he says, Yet their names – brooding, wind-tossed, pewter-grey names – seem to be emanations of the sea-parishes themselves: Lundy, Fastnet, South Utsire, North Utsire. They’re the music of weather’s local distinctiveness. Sean Street’s poem ‘Shipping Forecast, Donegal’, catches their sense of being incantations – not just respectful tributes to sea and weather, but call-signs from the home-patch. That could hardly be better put. There are quotations from weather observers of the past, including many from Gilbert White and Coleridge, and references to Turner’s weather paintings.
Every sort of weather is covered in this poetical book, from the humdrum greyness we live with much of the time to rarities like ball lightning. Best of all, I’ve learned a lovely new word: isophenes. I hope I get the chance to use it again.
You may also like The Book of Nightingales. Mabey gets another brief mention here. I highly recommend his Flora Britannica, a reference guide to British flowers, where to find them and their mythology.