The weather in the streets...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Soak of rain as taxis swish by you and drench your darned stockings; long walk home in the drizzly gloom; fruitless wait by the shared phone in the hall for your lover to telephone; no milk, no money, no coal, no hope.

... can bloody well just about sort itself out, frankly. It's wet, grey, slushy, icy and downright miserable. After almost a week of feeling like someone in the inter-war years, I am losing my grip on the present. We have been housebound, bar the odd granny-shuffle down the icy hill for bread and milk. The Colonel has a horror of powdered milk, so much of the days have been spent mapping routes to the most likely milk-sources and preparing for lengthy ration-like queues therein. We've had to clear out the freezer and have been eating old-fashioned fare like chops and sausages. The bots are studying the 1930s at school and wondered before Christmas if they could 'try' bread and margarine for tea like the depressive bedraggled herione of their textbook. Ha, they wonder no longer as the butter supplies have dried up since lorries can't get to our shops.

I haven't quite been darning, but I have been making cushions, huddled round the fire. I have also cleared out everyone's wardrobes, de-pilled my jerseys by hand with a razor, turned my shelves into a Bennetton shop, matched every sock in the house and baked scones. We've played board games and read a LOT. We've drunk gallons and gallons of tea, had endless discussions about the weather and listened to the wireless. Now we ALL live in the 1930s.

Despite us all now being back at work and school, I am reluctant to leave my happy gas-lit world of make-believe. So I am re-reading, as I often do at this gloomy time of year, the ultimate feel-ghastly book The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann.

Her own story is pretty good, including an affair with Cecil Day-Lewis, the spineless Poet Laureate. She also wrote the iconic Dusty Answer and Invitation to the Walz, both imperative reading for any girl on the cusp of adulthood.

This one is just for dark, tending-to-depressive, when-will-the-winter-ever-end misery-lovers like me. Olivia, the herione of Invitation to the Waltz, is back. Ten years on with a failed mariage behind her she meets again, in proper Brief Encounter fashion, the caddish bounder Rollo. On a train. With lots of smoking and tea in proper cups. He breaks her heart all over London and in expensive motor cars and cheap 30s motels. She bravely washes out her stockings by hand, drifts about being brave yet teary, eking out her chilly existence shilling by careful shilling while Rollo, shining with Brilliantined hair and too-wide smiles, lives a life of great luxury. It's tragically predictable, but oh, so exquisitely written. It's like spending a week in an early David Lean film; clenched, terse declarations of love, much holding back of tears and gazing blindly out of greasy bus windows.

If you're feeling brisk and modern, stay away. You'll just shout at the book or throw it in the fire.

On the other hand, if you're anything like me, you'll wallow in it and appear red-eyed for tea and bread and margarine, scratching hopefully about for a shilling to put in the gas meter. Bliss.

27 comments:

  1. You couldn't have timed that lovley post better!It was just what I needed, back from the shops feeling cold and miserable, needing a coffee and a danish (yes, I can get to Tesco now).
    Very impressed with your Benetton-style shelves - mine look more like a jumble sale. Do you hire yourself out?

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  2. Scones! Board games! Dry bread! I've been going around this all the wrong way, walking miles to buy food with the complaining, fleece-swaddled children.

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  3. Well I hope it's Camp Coffee. Danish??? Pshaw. You are beyond unpatriotic.

    Did you have a granny trolley to drag? And bootees?

    No, I do not. That it IT for this decade and shelves only like that due to enforced house-arrest. Mine normally jumbly too until the Colonel gets fed up and colour-codes everything..

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  4. Coffee - don't worry, there's been PLENTY of complaining, mainly from me, forced to play games while all the bloody electronic Christmas stuff languishes, and all the DVDs are boring. Also, the scones were pathetic.

    Still,score myself a happy new year 5 on the Mummy-upmanship-ometer.

    You get 3 for getting yours out of the house for fresh air.

    Trish??

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  5. Oh bugger! Italian coffee, Danish pastries, driving in the car to the shops. And to top it all, have happily allowed son to go goggle-eyed in front of the computer whilst school has been shut.
    He did get the bus this morning. Does that give me a 2?

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  6. You've got a nerve.

    You get a 2 if he queued with coupons for petrol for the bus in long flannel shorts and a scarf you knitted.

    Otherwise, no. You're not playing.

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  7. You're a hard woman...like your scones no doubt.

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  8. Dismal weather, board games, scones, books, hearty fare AND you sorted out the wardrobe! How grand is that?
    I should be praying for a storm and I just might get some good old fashioned, circa 1930, stuff done around here.

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  9. But I might have to crawl into bed and never emerge, reading such a book. We aren't hardened to pain, here in California. For better or for worse...

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  10. hostess - am still amazed at doing things I always think I am too busy being a working mummy to achieve and look! Done! Wardrobe! Scones!

    Pleased to get back to work via Starbucks and log on to the Internet this monring though.

    LPC - Ah, yes. Good point. Also, I read recently what makes you happy and you struck me as a very upbeat, steady sort of girl. I think you'd throw in in the fire. Or, in California, in the surf or a vineyard...

    Stay away from Lehmann, you're much more valuable OUT of the grip of pain.

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  11. My baby Becca and I used to make scones together, damn things always hard as rocks. This has nothing to do with your weather, but you know how old men will ramble on. Don't fret dearest E soon you will be hearing "Oh to be in England, now that April's there"

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  12. Have a visceral ache for the first tiny green shoot of spring.

    Now I need to go and shoot myself for the most pretentious comment ever typed.

    BANG.

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  13. I'm postponing my London arrival if y'all don't get the damned weather fixed.

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  14. Sorry E I really didn't mean to be pretentious, I hope you missed!

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  15. Can you begin with "Weather in the streets", or must one begin at the beguin?

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  16. ADG - bloody hell, I've been sewing bunting in a proper 1930s fash all weekend... Just pack wellies, you'll be fine. Oh and some shillings for the meter.

    James, you weren't and never, ever are! It was me, aching for spring like a soppy tosspot that got the deserved bullet.

    Toad, just leap in - wallow, enjoy and PLEASE come back and tell me what you thought?

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  17. Gosh, miserable, you say? It sounds right up my rainlashed, slightly rundown street (I am originally from the Midlands, after all.) You have described it beautifully; I can almost smell Rollo's expensive-yet-cloying cologne. May suggest it for my next bookclub, although you sound far brainboxier than me and it might cause my remaining four brain cells to melt. Would you say it's a tougher read than the Argos catalogue?

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  18. Pray welcome Milady Waving! Hurrah, fellow misery-lover. Was once reduced to tears by combination of birthday deadline, tiny pen and Argos catalogue so perhaps not best analogy. After my xmas, l'd be lucky to boast even four brain cells. It reads like silk - read aloud in steamy bath in clipped Celia Johnson voice for full effect. That way you can sob straight into the water. Reading group acceptable alternative.

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  19. Gail, in northern California12 January 2010 at 21:00

    Wonderful, long-awaited, post. Missed you.

    Here in northern California we're enjoying some much-needed rain. A tad too smug, however, because Mother Nature decided to hit us between the eyes with a 6.5 earthquake to the north (far north, thank goodness) and now a 25-foot high surf advisory. Not the time of year to vacation in California, nor for the faint of heart. Although
    if I weren't so chicken, I'd love to see this along the rugged Mendocino coast. Maybe with a pair of binoculars in some fabulous bed and breakfast, high on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

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  20. ADG- Be sure to bring the Hershey bars with you. They'll expect it.

    ELS- I'll give you the detective bits if you crank out the 30's story line. But I like your weather. Matches my disposition.

    ADG- Bring me back some Cubans and a pair of Cleverly shoes.

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  21. I'll meet you boys at the bar. . .

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  22. Gail - wow, that is proper weather! You win. Lovely to see you.

    Tintin - excellent plan; we could hole up in seedy pub near Mayfair with an old typewriter. We'll need mackintoshes and fags.

    ADG - no, don't. We like Americans to bring us bananas and nylon stockings, but since the internet, we can order Hersheys ourselves. Also (whisper), I'm afraid we think it smells a bit like sick. Sorry.

    Kathy - are you there yet!!!???? Have an absolutely brilliant time. xx

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  23. By this time next Wednesday we'll be trying to find our shoes under the airline seats and trying to maneuver, more than half sloshed already, down the aisle to the tarmac. Can hardly wait.

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  24. I am assuming that is the outward journey? Though frankly, is there any other way to return??

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  25. I'm sure we'll be sloshed on the way back, but a whole lot more melancholy. We head out for the island next Wednesday.

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Please leave a comment if you can be remotely bothered - anything you have to say is valuable and I absolutely love hearing from you all. Elizabeth