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Writing about the weather in a time of floods

Posted on December 28, 2015

For me, two books  published this year have taken different and  inspiring approaches to the weather and the outdoors.  As we watch water cascading down the very streets in Yorkshire  that the British leg of  the Tour De France  traversed just last year, Jon Day’s  Cyclogeography: journeys of a London bicycle courier (Notting Hill Editions) chronicles the unforgiving nature of the messengers existence on the fringes of society, while at the same time examining the physical dimensions of the journey itself; gradients, road surfaces, wind, rain and the way the bike wants to flow down hill  following the ancient ley lines of the city’s subterranean rivers. Alexandra Harris, Weatherland: writers and artists under English skies (Thames & Hudson) is an ambitious literary and cultural history, the story of the stories that people have told each other about the weather across the millennia from  Anglo-Saxon scribes to Virginia Woolf and Zadie Smith.  As the weather we have associated with the British Isles begins to change irrevocably, she reveals the great storehouse we carry in our minds; the names we find for the hail, the wind and the mist, the traditions of the seasons, the Frost Fairs and the riddles.

A shorter version of this blog first appeared in the review section of The Guardian on 26 December 2015.