09 May 2011

Drought, rain, colours, smell

There has been the longest spell without rain I can remember. Last week, for the first time the canine walks ended with the dog's paws and my wellies as dry as they had been at the start. Dry! Having trodden on grassy soil! Inconceivable, but true.

The last three days saw the end of the good weather. This would normally bring a blanket of gloom over the landscape and over many people's mood, including mine, but this time the fields and the eyes seemed to welcome a bit of rain. There even was that smell, which doesn't grace British nostrils very often, of thirsty soil getting wet at last. I don't remember experiencing this away from Bolivia.

Early in the morning today, the sun was out in force again, and the colours had an unusual intensity. Bright, clean green on the trees and fields, glassy transparency on the river. And that smell again. They, too, reminded me of youthful days in the thin air of the Andes. I had to stand outside, experiencing the weather as an artistic happening.

Less kind readers may say that my middle-aged senses are tricking me with mirages of childhood. I contend that the weather is changing so much that some phenomena that used to occur only in southern latitudes are now taking place right here. And, alas, not in Bolivia anymore.

Take, for example, the adder.

15 January 2011


Today Northumberland basks in the unwonted luxury of a two-digit temperature: ten, to be exact. The thaw was slow but in the last week or so it was hastened by a another type of precipitation: rain. Wet in the morning, wet in the afternoon, wet through the night. Oh and windy too. Right now I look out of the window and it is lashing down, the trees swinging like upside-down pendulums. One wonders if this land is meant for human habitation. 
At least we now have central heating. When we placed the order for oil, in the early part of December, we were warned that the freeze and the snow would delay delivery. What the warning failed to spell out is that the delay would be over a month long. We began to stint ourselves before New Year. In January our reserves hit rock bottom, forcing us to rely on labour-intensive wood, expensive coal and extortionate electricity. The size of the next electricity bill is something best not thought about. 
It is, of course, purely coincidental that the time announced for resumption of oil deliveries  was just a little later than an expected hike in fuel prices. Back in Bolivia, people would be out on the streets over this. In urbane Britain, activism is confined to conversational demonstration and the writings of George Monbiot. It would be tempting to start a civil rights movement from this rural backwater, if I didn’t have the near-certainty that it would be a one-man battle.