One universally acknowledged trait of the British is their obsession with the weather. After greeting a fellow Brit, the conversation always turns to the weather. It’s an inexhaustible subject which can be used in any conversation. When I worked in Italy several years ago, I completely baffled my colleague by cheerfully chatting about the weather each day. Thinking back on his expression of complete discombobulation as I sat in the shed this afternoon, I realised why. Most other nations have reliable weather patterns. Parts of the year are hot and dry whilst others are stormy, all following a predictable pattern year in, and year out. General changes to climate aside, the British Weather is notoriously fickle. Take today for example: blowing a hooley and pouring with rain. Yet yesterday, and even this morning, it was dry, warm and sunny!
As the wind rose, I dashed to the allotment to check on the chickens and also the shed. Or more specifically the solar panel. This is the first strong winds we have had since it went up. I had nightmarish visions of the shed roof being ripped off with the panel during a particularly strong gust. Thankfully, the shed roof and solar panel were in their usual places. All the chickens were dry and had food so I quickly left them in peace. However, there were a couple of surprises as I collected the eggs. Over in the new coop, which I am still debating calling the Eggporium (any other suggestions on a postcard and delivered to The Beach Hut, Plot 39), I nearly stepped on an egg in the middle of the run. Glaring at the culprit (Leia), I proceeded to take her to task, reminding her she had a sturdy, warm and dry nest box to lay in. Also, the nest box nearly broke four humans as they lugged it across site in order to make your beautiful new home. Ungrateful doesn’t even begin to cover it!
The second incident occured with Dora, one of our new Black Rocks. When I opened up the nest box (or nest house might be more accurate!), I discovered Dora in there laying. Beside her were three eggs. Innocently, I reached down and picked up two. Like a flash, she turned her head and I narrowly escaped a pecked hand. Sighing with exasperation, I reached in to get the last egg. Looking back, the only reason I got the first two eggs is because she was unprepared. The return of my hand into the nest saw her spring into action. First, she gave the sharpest peck possible, putting all her force into it. The resulting yelp of pain followed by some unprintable words from the human assured her the attack had worked. The next phase involved escaping from the now injured and irate human by nimbly skipping past her and legging it down the path. Mission complete!
All of our new arrivals, possibly with the exception of Flora, are incredibly timid. This behaviour is often displayed in the blind panic of trying to run away from humans as fast and as chaotically as possible. Bonus points of the human gets injured in the process. I was well aware that any sudden moves would freak out Dora and she would dash off. What would inevitably follow would be the most irritating game of hide and seek, all conducted in the wind and rain. There is something so infuriating about being outsmarted by a chicken. It’s something to do with the smug smirk on their beaks as they lead you a merry dance. Fortunately, Dora had no idea where to go and she stick to the path outside the main coop. Slowly, ever so slowly, I crept up to within grabbing range. Her fatal mistake was getting distracted by some dandelion leaves. Instantly, I swooped down and bundled her under my arm. A highly surprised and outraged cluck nearly deafened me in my right ear. Shoving her back in the nest box, I slammed the door shut, muttering good riddance as I did so.
It’s long been a saying in my family that high wind hypes up children and animals. Judging from Dora’s behaviour today, it continues to be true. And here we are again, talking about the weather. The wind was blowing hard and my poor willow screen was starting to bend back over the path. There’s no point in trying to fix it until the wind drops but I just hope it survives!
Apparently, after the weekend we are due to have another mammoth heatwave. A morbid fascination with the weather is nurtured in British children very early on when the weather forecast predicts no rain so they get sent off to school without a coat. Partway through the day, the heavens open, break times are indoors and they arrive home resembling a drowned rat. Or vice versa when the weatherman predicts appalling storms and everyone gets bundled up in coats. Perhaps the most famous was the BBC Weatherman Michael Fish who confidently told the nation that the October 1987 hurricane didn’t exist. My parents spent hours that night listening to the wind rip the slates off their roof. Moments like this contribute to the British love of talking about the weather. If in doubt when talking to a Brit, remember this key fact. The weather is always wrong. It’s either too hot, too cold, too windy or too wet. Never has a Brit been content with the weather.
As for myself, as I sat in the shed whilst it poured with rain, I thought to myself that we really could do with some sun for a change…