Cats and Dogs by Chris Green
It hasn’t been a good Spring. I have spent most of it listening to birdsong on Birdsong FM because there hasn’t been any birdsong in the garden.
Every week when Sophie and I tune in to CountryWatch, they go on about global warming. March was the hottest on record and April was the hottest on record and last Sunday the weatherman with the Polish name tried to tell us that so far May has also been the hottest on record.
‘Not here, Tomasz,’ I told him. He could not hear me of course. He was in a studio miles away. On the Moon possibly.
I know that it has rained every day so far in May because I keep a diary and, looking at it, I can see that Sophie and I have not been able to get out for a walk in the country once. It has been so wet I have not even been able to go down to the allotment. When I drove past it on Monday, I noticed that the weeds were colossal.
There has not been a single day’s play at this year’s cricket festival and the tourists, having had to abandon their county fixture, are considering abandoning the whole tour. ‘
‘You can’t play cricket in a bloody climate like this,’ captain, Rick Sydney said in an interview on Radio Glanchester yesterday. ‘We’re off home, mate.’
He may not have been serious. He did seem to be three sheets to the wind. All that 4X, I guess.
According to John Bearcroft, the River Glan burst its banks last night and apparently there are boats going up and down the High Street. Fortunately, we live in Lofty Ridge, one of the higher points of the town. The roof is leaking a little in the back bedroom, but I think we should be all right for now. We’ve got a few bowls and buckets. If it keeps on raining the way it has, though, who knows what might happen?
Aunt Molly phones to ask about Sophie and little Riley. Not that Riley is little anymore. He’s nearly thirteen. Aunt Molly still thinks of him as if he were three. She phones every Wednesday. Aunt Molly lives on her own and she likes to have a bit of family news. Especially since Uncle Mitch passed away. I expect it gives her something to talk about at the church bring and buy or the hairdressers. I tell her that Sophie is lying down. She has a bit of a headache but otherwise, she is fine. Riley is a little sulky because, even though it’s cricket season, he does like his football and he hasn’t been able to get out to play.
‘I know,’ she says. ‘It’s sweltering, isn’t it? I’ve got the fans on upstairs and downstairs. It’s going to be forty degrees by the weekend, they say.’
This is strange. There’s no sign of a break in the cloud here yet, in fact, the rain is falling with a new intensity. Cats and dogs, as they say. And yet, Norcastle, where Aunt Molly lives is less than fifty miles away, in fact, as its name suggests, it’s north of here. I am about to mention this but Aunt Molly interrupts.
‘That’s beautiful birdsong I can hear,’ she says. ‘I expect you’re out in the garden, sitting under that lovely maple tree.’
‘No, Aunt Molly. We’re indoors,’ I say.
‘Are you really? On a day like this? That’s a shame. ….. Good Lord! Have you got birds in the house, David?’ she says. ‘Isn’t that a cuckoo?’
‘Oh, that’s just the radio,’ I say.
‘Well, it’s internet radio, Aunt Molly. There’s a station that broadcasts birdsong all day. I listen to it a lot.’
‘But you shouldn’t be indoors on a day like this, David,’ she says.
It is beginning to dawn on me that Glanchester seems to have developed its own micro-climate. I suspect something is very wrong, but I don’t want to worry Aunt Molly. She had a stroke last year. It was touch and go for a while.
‘I’ve got to go now,’ I say. ‘There’s someone at the door.’
I take a look on the BBC weather site, something that I have avoided doing lately. I can see why. It’s hopelessly inaccurate. There is absolutely no mention of rain here in Glanchester, or in neighbouring Starborough. Not a single black cloud on the graphic. It’s blanket sunshine all day every day for the foreseeable future with light winds and projected temperatures similar to those reported by Aunt Molly.
You can find almost anything out on the internet. All manner of information is there at your fingertips. You can find out how many Seventh Day Adventists there are in Tuvalu. You can find out what Beyoncé had for breakfast. You can find out what Prince Phillip’s favourite sea shanty is. But, I cannot for the life of me find out what is happening to the weather in Glanchester. I search on all the major browsers using a dictionary of different search terms but there is quite simply no reference to anything untoward. It is supposed to be hot and sunny here.
I rattle the old grey matter around to try and come up with a rational explanation. Are scientists cloud seeding perhaps? I recall the Kate Bush video for her song, Cloudbusting, with Donald Sutherland, based on Wilhelm Reich’s revolutionary device. The cloudbuster consisted of a set of hollow tubes pointed to the sky which were earthed by a body of water. It drew the orgone energy out of the atmosphere. OK. Perhaps, a bit of a longshot. What about the biblical flood and Noah’s Ark. Are Smetterton Studios maybe doing an extravagant present-day remake of the doctrinal epic here in Glanchester?
Riley comes into the room, interrupting my speculation. No school today. It is flooded. He is wearing a sweatshirt that says I’d Rather Be Sleeping. Better than the I Hate Everyone one he was wearing before, I suppose.
‘When’s Mum going to get up?’ he says, looking up briefly from his phone.
‘I don’t know, Riley,’ I say. ‘Your mother has a headache.’
‘I’m not surprised she has a headache,’ he says. ‘Can’t you turn that awful row off?’
‘That awful row, Riley, is birdsong,’ I say ‘It’s therapeutic.’
‘Oh never mind.’
‘I was going to ask her to give me a lift over to Axel’s. Perhaps you can take me.’
‘I’m busy, Riley.’
‘Can Axel come over here then, Dad. He’s got some cool new apps on his phone. There’s this one that ……’
‘Not now, Riley. Oh! Go on, then! Tell him to come over, if you like.’
I take Sophie up a cup of herbal tea and ask her how she is feeling. She has the television on and is watching the Chelsea Flower Show on catch-up. A succession of royals and celebrities are paraded before the cameras. It seems that this is now the focus of the TV coverage of the event with just the occasional glimpse of a garden or a flower or two to suggest a modicum of authenticity.
‘It’s baking hot here in West London,’ says the presenter with the plum in her mouth.
‘But the celebrities are out in their droves,’ says the presenter from the other side of the tracks. It is the wrong expression, of course, but you can’t help thinking she is right. They are a little like cattle, herded around to put on a show wherever they are needed to promote the well-to-do club.
‘Some of the plants might be wilting but the tropical plants here are in their element,’ says the presenter with the dark linen suit, trying it seems to get the narrative back to horticulture.
‘Any better, darling?’ I ask.
‘A little,’ says Sophie. ‘But I’m not getting up until the rain stops. Look at the sunshine there in London. The presenter with the gaudy floral twin-set says it is going to be 41 degrees tomorrow, I suppose that’s today or was it yesterday. It’s hard to tell where you are with this catch-up TV. But, look at it here. I can’t remember when we last saw the sun. What’s happening, David?’
‘I don’t know, sweetest, but whatever is happening is not supposed to be happening. It’s very worrying.’
‘Can’t you phone your friend, Darwin? He’s some kind of scientist. He might know.’
‘Darwin is an opthalmologist, petal. He only knows about eyes.’
‘What’s Riley up to? He’s very quiet.’
‘He’s doing something on his phone.’
‘Isn’t he always?’
‘I said he could have Axel round. He’ll be over shortly.’
‘Axel. H’mm, Axel. He’s the one with the new phone, isn’t he? 6G or whatever it is. He was showing me some things on it last week. It’s amazing what they can do with smartphones these days, isn’t it, lover? Axel had this app on there that could change the colour of the sky. I don’t imagine it could really change the colour of the sky, it was probably some trick of the light, but then again you never know. I expect they’ll come up with an app that can change the weather soon.’
© Chris Green 2016: All rights reserved