A long time ago, I published my most popular post so far, ‘The Driest County in England’. This is read every day, and is something that appeals to many people here in the UK, seeking to escape the rainier parts of these islands. Of course, it was ironic in tone, and spoke of heavy rainfall in Norfolk, which continues to claim the honour of being the driest county in England.
Two weeks ago, days of on-off rainfall culminated in a downpour that my neighbour exclaimed was ‘the worst he had ever seen’. He took photos of the the torrents, and of hailstones the size of quails’ eggs. At the time, we were enjoying seasonal sun and temperatures in Eastbourne, on the south coast. We returned home to more rain, which started soon after we entered Essex. Last weekend, we drove over two hundred miles north, to Sunderland. As we left, it was raining here. Upon entering Lincolnshire, the rain stopped, and on arrival in Sunderland, a warm sunny evening greeted us. Leaving for home on the Monday, we encountered some rain in Yorkshire. Later that night, it began to rain so heavily, the main arterial road across Norfolk, the A47, had to be closed, as it was under twelve inches of water at Easton.
This week, it has been dull and showery. However, when I left to take Ollie for his walk around two hours ago, it was warm and sunny, and felt seasonably hot. Less than forty minutes into the walk, it began to rain. It grew in intensity, until after an hour, it was raining so hard, I could no longer see properly. The thin summer shirt, cotton shorts, and casual shoes that I was wearing were all dark with water; stuck to my skin, feeling heavy and uncomfortable. Even Ollie took shelter under some trees, such was the relentless intensity of this downpour. I staggered back, half-blind with water running down my face, and flung off the sodden clothing. Even a good rub with two towels hardly made a dent in Ollie’s soaked fur.
A few days ago, I was chatting to a local man, a fellow dog-walker. He asked how I liked living in Norfolk, and I replied that it would be a lot nicer if the weather improved. I told him that I was tired of the rain. I was wet all winter, soaked in spring, drenched in the summer, and always damp in the autumn. The few days we were spared the rain, it was either uncomfortably hot, or extremely cold. He was actually quite incensed. He repeated the myth that Norfolk has the best climate in the UK. The lowest average rainfall, one of the warmest average temperatures, and by far the kindest winters of anywhere in this country. He went so far as to suggest I might be imagining things, and proposed that I should look up meteorological statistics, which would prove his point. I reminded him that Disraeli had once used the phrase ,’There are lies, damned lies, and statistics’, so we should not rely too heavily on what we are told, but should base things on our own experience, and what we can see. He walked away, with a shake of his head.
As I hung up my soaked clothing over the bath, to dry out enough to put in the washing basket, it occurred to me that it might all be a lie. Clever propaganda, designed to increase the tourist trade, and to promote the county for investment. One thing is for sure, it cannot still claim to be one of the driest places in England. Certainly not from where I’m sitting.