Bookends

Our national obsession

13 September 2012

11:12 PM

13 September 2012

11:12 PM

If Britain is serious about this Olympic legacy thing, we should get ‘talking about the weather’ added to the list of official sports. We’d clean up at Rio. Strange, mind you, that we don’t actually know very much about the subject which consumes so much of our conversation. How rainclouds form, why lightning happens, where Britain’s first windmill was — that sort of thing.

One man determined to put this right is Charlie Connelly. Bring Me Sunshine (Little, Brown, £12.99) is his anecdotal, layman-friendly exploration of the elements and what they do to us.


Seathwaite in the Lake District, we learn, is Britain’s wettest inhabited place (140 inches of rain a year, nearly six times London’s figure but some way short of the world champion, Cherrapunji in India, which gets 463). The foghorn was invented by Robert Foulis after he walked home in fog and realised he could only hear the low notes of his daughter’s piano practice. The German physicist Georg Richmann assured a colleague that the experiment involving an iron bar connected to a wire on the top of his house was a perfectly safe way of investigating lightning, just before a ‘globe of blue fire as large as a fist’ shot out and killed him. (The colleague was merely knocked unconscious.)

The American rainmaker Robert St George Dyrenforth failed to make much rain, earning himself the nickname ‘Dryhenceforth’. For fans of Connelly, author of the equally entertaining shipping forecast travelogue Attention All Shipping, things have indeed turned out nice again.


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