Sunday, 31 July 2016

Writing - Here is the weather

In an effort to keep the value of these blog posts up I have researched a variety of subjects including history which is one of my pet subjects. I am a firm believer that we can and should learn a great deal from history and this post is an opportunity to sample conditions as they have been over the centuries.

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Mary Shelley

This post is about the weather and the links it has with writing. I wrote a post a number of weeks ago about Mary Shelley and her book Frankenstein. It was written in 1816 which was described as the year without a summer. She wrote the book while in Geneva but she wasn't the only one trying to escape the bad weather.
Jane Austen writing from Hampshire lamented that 'it will never be fine again!'
J M W Turner captured driving rain and red tinged skies in his work Lancaster Sands.
In Ireland they suffered eight weeks of rain and Nationalist politician Daniel O'Connor grumbled about 'dreadful weather ... There is nothing but rain and wretchedness.'
It was also extremely cold and four inches of ice were recorded in Essex at the end of August.

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It wasn't just in this country where there were weather related problems. In Portugal the fruit crop was ruined, in Switzerland the grape and grain harvests failed and peasants were resorting to begging. In the USA no grain was harvested in New Hampshire and in Vermont people were reduced for foraging for nettles, wild turnips and hedgehogs.

All the above are facts and for an historical author relevant but there are also one off weather events that may trigger ideas for stories. One such event that you don't hear of these days were the London pea soupers. They were dense fogs that were tinged green/yellow because of the air pollution. Ideal conditions for clandestined activities, murder and sabotage.

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The Great Frost 1683-84

The Thames was frozen to a depth of two feet and the frost remained from Christmas to February. There were regular markets, Chipperfield exhibited a menagerie of performing animals and Charles II had a spit roasted ox on the river.

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The Great Storm 1703

On 26th November booming thunder terrified southern England destroyed homes and 4000 oak trees in the New Forest. At sea the storm killed a third of the navy and the 120 foot Eddystone lighthouse was swept away. There were reports of a ship being tossed 800 feet inland by a water spout and Queen Anne sheltered in her wine cellar.

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The Great Smog 1952

I was two years old and remember later smogs but this one lasted for five days and killed upwards of 4000 people. Theatres closed, sports fixtures were cancelled, transport was brought to a standstill  and people fell into the Thames.

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The Great Drought - 1976

I was twenty six and remember this quite well. There were hosepipe bans, 400 spectators suffered heatstroke at Wimbledon and ball boys fainted. The government appointed a drought minister, Dennis Howell, who was nicknamed the minister for rain when it started throwing it down a few days into his appointment.

All of this material can provide background for stories and I have only given a small taste of what it was like during these events.

God Bless