Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison
The Last Word Review
Melissa Harrison uses the quote from fell-walker Alfred Wainwright in the introduction “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which sets the tone for her latest book Rain: Four Walks in English Weather as she sets about in a refreshing and in a very British was describing our obsession with our favourite topic, the weather and especially Rain and the its vital role in our lives.
We live on an island and therefore we are dominated by the weather and everything it throws at us and through the opening pages of the book Harrison looks at devastation and deaths caused by the floods in the recent winter. We all know the power of rain fall even the author who lives in South London suffers when the rain falls thanks to a blocked guttering that dampens the walls of her home. The power of rain must never be underestimated. But there is more to rain and Harrison leaves her home and seeks out rain through four seasons in Wicken Fen (Winter), Shropshire (Spring), Darent Valley (Summer) and Dartmoor (Autumn).
Each chapter is a walk that is written so eloquently that it reads like a wonderful novel that is over all too quickly and at around 128 pages it really does end too soon as you read you it feels as though you are walking with Harrison so you may need to pack some wet weather clothing as there is rain. The historical notes that she brings into her writing are a joy to read as are the folklore that the seasons and time has forgot.
If the Oak’s before the ash
Then you’ll get only a splash.
If the ash is before the oak
Then you may expect a soak
There is a sense of poetry in the authors writing and that is a sign of a nature writer in tune of her surroundings and the way she talks about the birds the wild flowers and even Ants. There are childhood memories that intersperse within the writing that play with anyone who has childhood memories our family days walking in the English countryside and getting wet something we tend to expect with the vagaries of the English weather.
The whole ethos of this book is to help the reader look at rain more than just a talking point and helps us explore its life giving and the role is having on our countryside and farming practices.
As you reach the end of the book Harrison has added a 100 words as an appendix describing rain that many readers will enjoy as an example Dimpsey: Low cloud producing very fine rain (Devon). Plash: A downpour; plashy: wet, watery. As for Pissing down I think I will leave that one for the reader.
As a reviewer writing a book review about rain, what could be better as I write and look out of my study window, there has been thunder lightening, snow and now a thick blanket of hail has covered the ground. And this is the last few days of April. Springtime in England.
Rain: Four Walks in English Weather written by Melissa Harrison and published by Faber & Faber and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.