Monday, December 21, 2009

In Praise of Rain

Rain is mostly an unpleasant thing to experience. It's usually ugly and depressing to watch, accompanied by cold wind, and very uncomfortable to be out in, requiring heavy clothes, hats and umbrellas, trying to protect clothes that cost money and need to look right where you're going (and perhaps expensive hair in the case of women) getting wet anyway and spending hours with a disagreeable sense that you are rotting from within and that the pneumonia virus is making itself nicely at home.

I grew up in one of the dryest places in England, but even there it seemed to chuck it down every other day, winter and summer. And on the northern coast of Spain, where the climate is similar, though a bit milder, rain is generally seen as a nuisance.

Down here in the south however, it's very different. Rain is a blessing, something rarely seen, and even more rarely is it the right sort of rain at the right time. It's been raining on and off fror days and looks like going on all week. Most people have some link to the land, a house in the country or a smallholding their grandparents still live on, or a family house in a small village they once came from, and everyone understands the importance of rain. the land is very dry, hard to get any sort of crop from, and what does grow needs a lot of care and luck to grow in relative abundance. If it doesn't happen the wine is poor, the wheat fails, the olives are out-competed by Greece and Italy and the economy of the region suffers. It's true that we're not going to starve, and you can always buy wine from somewhere else, but there is still a deep connection with the country, even here in the city, and we welcome this kind of rain without complaint.

Another reason we need the rain is to fill the reservoirs. Towns are a long way apart down here and if you run out of water the nearest place that has an excess could be hundreds of miles away and with no pipeline or canal joining them. It's years since they cut the water off at night here, but it still happens in some places in Andalucia, and it could happen here again if circumstance demands it. People are well aware of this, and so rain is good news.

There are times when even an Englishman can take pleasure in walking in the rain. Warm summer rain when you're wearing old comfotable clothes and shoes you don't care about, and you don't have to be anywhere but where you are, and are in the right company in a place that suddenly looks intensely green and pure, under a sky that lours, looms and wuthers, changing shape and colour moment by moment, painting pictures in the air that invite you to stand and watch them for hours. Now that's what I call rain.

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