Writing about the weather in a time of floods
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.