Richard Mabey, esteemed nature writer, has been keeping an eye on the weather, but this is not simply a chronicle of floods and heatwaves. Turned Out Nice Again is most engaging when Mabey reflects on the relevance of weather to narrative.
There is, of course, the larger narrative of climate change – are we losing the plot? Mabey tops and tails the book with thoughts on this. In between he gets down to micro-climates, the particularity and localness of British weather.
Our position in the path of the Atlantic storm belt and next to a large continental mass, means we never know what’s coming next. Turned Out Nice Again looks at how we live with the weather in our daily lives - something we all have in common. The weather, Mabey suggests, is a ‘kind of common language.’ And, being so changeable, it ‘affects our bodies, our moods, our behaviour, the structure of our environment.’ Apparently, during periods of low-pressure hospital admissions increase, there are more strokes and phantom limb pain at such times.
Weather is both a physical reality and integral part of our imaginations. Changeable and often memorable it has a powerful effect on our emotions. The stories that we choose to tell about ourselves are often woven around weather.
How many of us have personal stories about the summer of 2012 – wettest since records began – flooded homes, wedding guests drenched, allotment crops drowned?
For novelists, extreme weather can provide an over-arching metaphor. Among recently published books you'll find Instructions For A Heatwave from Maggie O'Farrell and Fish Change Direction In Cold Weather by Pierre Szalowski.
I was pleased to come across this in Mabey's book: Britain’s greatest ice-storm occurred on 27 January 1940 when ‘cats were iced to branches and birds killed in flight as their wings froze solid.’ That fact could well suit a scene in my current work-in-progress.
It’s a gem of a book in every sense. The size of the cover image here is somewhat misleading. This is a pocket-sized book of 90 pages. Though I enjoy reading certain books on my Kindle, and am a keen fan of poetry Apps for my ipad, Turned Out Nice Again, is evidence that there’s still plenty of scope for the physical book.