When I was a small girl, pedalling furiously about on my sturdy bike, looking for wrongs to right and injured animals to bandage, the weather was usually on my side. Anything below a Force 9 gale warning and I would be belting outside after breakfast, free, off up trees, climbing walls, licking the satisfying blood-like taste from my palms after swinging about on rusty iron poles. And really, in the north of England, you're pretty safe if you prefer inclement times.
But the famed Summer of '76 was a nightmare of glaring sunshine, and I was like a stray dog in a dustbowl depression-era film, mewling unhappily and slinking around to cower in the shade, unmoving. My mother would slather us in Ambre Solaire oil, a smell that to this day spells sticky enforced displeasure. And we would be sent out to Make The Most of It. I hated it. I would be winkled out from behind the curtain, re-reading the bit where Ginger dies in Black Beauty, wallowing happily in great hiccoughing sobs.
That summer was followed by emigration to the West Indies. We had sun every sodding day. I lost the joy of hearing chilly rain splatter heavily against the window, the haunting song of blasting wind and the indescribable pleasure of uncurling your raw, scarlet claws from your bicycle handles and feeling the prickling sting as you shoved them under hot water. But you get used to anything as a child and soon we were berry-brown and barefoot and couldn't remember log fires or twilight or slush.
It came back in spades, though, yesterday. Lamps were on all day, I cranked up the heating, gleefully dug out my boots from the attic. The internet fizzled out, some branches came down. Fantastic. The bots' matches were called off half-way through and they were as navy-blue as their kit as they dripped miserably on the doorstep. I ran hot baths, roasted chicken, lit candles, shook blankets.
They moaned like mad about the cold, the grey sky, the rain coming in under the back door. "You love this, Mum, don't you?" they accused crossly. They did prep, theatrically thumping about and shivering, incandescent at being cut off from
I made gravy and moved soggy mountains of blue stuff about it the laundry room. I made those unconvincing soothing noises that come from a place of unspeakable smugness that never again will I have to do prep or enforced team sport. I could hardly keep the smile off my face. Today it's still slashing down. A man is coming soon to hang great thick blackout curtains over the huge windows in Rose's room. The second they're up, I'm taking the dog, a huge mug of tea, a loo roll and Black Beauty upstairs to road test them.