Clare Mackintosh: Waterproof in Wales
14:22 06 February 2017
‘Not a bad day today,’ the lady in the newsagent said as I followed her gaze out of the window, over which water was cascading from the gutter above
When I broke the news to friends and family that we were moving to North Wales, the response was consistent and predictable. “You do know it rains there?” “It rains everywhere,” I replied gaily. It’s hardly the Costa del Cotswolds, after all. Muddy walks and wet school runs have been part and parcel of our winters (and frequently our summers) in Chipping Norton, and so they would continue to be in North Wales. I doubted I’d even notice the change in climate.
We moved at the start of September, benefitting from one of those wonderful Indian Summers that feel like a reward for good behaviour. Then, as the days became shorter, and summer slipped slowly into autumn… oh my GOD THE RAIN! It poured down for hours, days, weeks at a time. It gushed down drainpipes, rushed along pavements, and puddled into every available pothole. Two months later and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d returned from a dog walk without wet trousers, wet socks, wet underwear, for heaven’s sake. Was this climate change? The apocalypse? Or was it just… North Wales?
I heard the warnings of my naysayer friends echoing in my ears. Why didn’t I listen? Would it have made a difference? And then something struck me. As I set out on yet another wet school run, water seeping between my damp collar and my neck, it occurred to me that, in the midst of these biblical rains, I hadn’t heard anyone else complaining about them. Not a soul. “Not a bad day today, is it?” the lady in the newsagent said, one morning. I followed her gaze out of the window, over which water was cascading from the gutter above. On the high street, a woman was battling with an umbrella; drenched from the waist down by a passing car driving through the puddles. “Not as wet as yesterday,” the newsagent continued. And I had to give her that; it was indeed marginally less wet than the previous day, when I had contemplated borrowing a kayak and paddle to splash my way down the street from our flat to my rented office. Not as wet as yesterday.
As the week progressed, and the rain continued to pour, I realised the newsagent was not the only Pollyanna in the village. “Lovely and mild today!” declared a man with an enthusiastic Labrador. And indeed it was. Positively balmy, if one compared it to – say – Iceland. It seems that, in North Wales, weather is just a state of mind. And why not? ‘Nice day’, is, after all, entirely subjective. Who decides what’s nice and what’s not? Just as some people are sun-seekers, wanting nothing more than to stretch out like a lizard on a white-hot beach; others prefer the wintery pleasures of bed socks, hot chocolate, and a DVD box set. Why not be a lover of wet weather? Why not embrace the sound of raindrops on roof tiles; of swollen streams over rocky river beds?
They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, and fortunately there is no shortage of Welsh outdoor shops willing to take my money. Boots (obviously). Waterproof trousers. Waterproof gloves. Waterproof coat, with hood. Waterproof hat, for extra wet days. Frankly, if I could find a waterproof balaclava I’d happily hand over my bank card.
And so now I sally forth looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, every step accompanied by rustling and creaking from my not-quite-worn-in waterproofs. Arriving at work I shake myself like a dog, shedding rain drops in the lobby before venturing upstairs to my office to divest myself of each water-logged garment. Who cares if it rains all winter? Not me.