British Weather

By Sarah Chamberlain

One day, about a month ago, I was sitting on the couch watching one of the many comedy quiz shows that flourish on British television. One of the questions asked about common British traits (an issue which is more contentious than you’d think, but that’s an academic treatise, not a blog entry), and it turned out that the most commonly named British trait is a tendency to talk about the weather. No, this isn’t a comedy show, but the thing about stereotypes is that they exist because there is, deep down, some small figment of truth in them.

Cloud clover can approach very quickly

Cloud clover can approach very quickly

What I think surprises people most when they first come to Britain is not the grey raininess of the place, but rather that the weather is so endlessly changeable. I can get up in the mid-morning and see a sunny sky outside, but by the time I make it out of the flat an hour later, the wind will have picked up, the clouds will have settled overhead, and I have to reconcile myself to getting wet. Wearing layers isn’t just a suggestion here, it’s a way of life. Coming from a relatively arid climate in California, when I first moved here I thought winter boots, wool coats, and thermals were things people wore when they went on skiing trips at Lake Tahoe, not part of a day-to-day uniform.

And now, as the fall equinox approaches and Edinburgh days darken with the approach of a long, wet winter, I know that soon I’ll be pulling my big black boots out of the closet and taking my winter coat and scarf off their hooks. The ritual of wrapping myself up against harsh wind and cold sleet will become part of my daily routine. There will definitely be moments, when I’ll be chilled and buffeted as I walk across the Meadows to meetings and workshops, where I’ll wonder what I was thinking when I moved from sunny California to the northern reaches of a cold, windswept island. But then I’ll remember the hundred other reasons why I live here, and I’ll grin through chattering teeth and bear it.

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