Why I'm singing and dancing in the rain

IAN COLLINS Watching telly so rarely - only occasionally in houses of friends - I can be transfixed by the sight and sound of what seem to be hysterical Martians. Never more so than with a weather report.

IAN COLLINS

Watching telly so rarely - only occasionally in houses of friends - I can be transfixed by the sight and sound of what seem to be hysterical Martians. Never more so than with a weather report.

While basking in a balmy Christmas I saw this barmy bloke leaping over dramatic charts like a performance artist having a fit. Waving wildly, and shrieking, he seemed to be warning us about instant nuclear annihilation. Either that or he'd been drinking more than I had.

What we were in for, it transpired, was some relatively mild but vaguely varied weather. That great news is not good telly.


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The same fake sense of crisis has passed like a band of low pressure over my beloved radio and lodged fast. Now our weather bulletins - once a highlight of my day - seem to be sponsored by the Health and Safety Executive, the compensation culture secretary and Billy Smart's Circus.

If told to take care one more time in a drop of rain I shall SCREAM.

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Yes, accidents can and do happen - friends had a narrow escape from a fallen tree in the storm of a fortnight back; a bashed power line affected my borrowed house in Southwold for four days - but most of them will happen at home.

Most of us die in bed. The key question of human existence is really this. Is there life before death? Answer: Yes, there can be… if we get out more and savour our brilliant good fortune.

Even amid pollution-driven changes in weather patterns, our climate is gloriously life-affirming - nature at its kindest and most inspired.

In contrast, meteorology at its harshest has blighted most of Africa. In Bangladesh they go from drought to deluge.

And much of the developed world has developed despite hostile weather. American cities burn in summer and freeze in winter, and may be wrecked by tornadoes and hurricanes between times. My cousin in Calgary is snowed in for half the year (and thinks nothing of it: we go to pieces after a dusting of icing sugar).

Our great luck is that we can still largely depend on temperate climes. While our moderate nature is partly shaped by the gentle elements around us, we have the added blessing of infinite variety.

Spare me the tyranny of a permanently blue sky. I want clouds often to be massing, racing and pouring rain. I want distinct seasons.

Weather influences me hugely, and has helped to define where and how I live. To enjoy our climate I've moved from the darkest, lowest point of an urban flood plain to a light box on top of a City tower. Now when rain lashes my wall of north-facing window, or when moonlight illuminates the flat through silvery clouds - I'm in my element.

My bolt-hole by the sea rattles with weather in winter. Wind straight from Siberia howls down the chimneys and under the floorboards. The little house creaks and seems braced like a ship on the ocean. Bliss.

And when I swim in the North Sea, from early spring to late autumn, I like seawater that's cold and choppy, not calm and tepid. Paradise isles in an ocean-scale warm bath hold no appeal to me.

Or else I start my day with a cold shower. Warming and wakening. A hot bath would spur me back to bed.

Our rainy January should have brought weather-forecaster joy rather than misery. For every shower and, better still, steady downpour helped postpone calamity.

One of the greatest disasters of our let-it-rip development of the last decade has been a complete failure to plan adequate water supplies. Head for head we in over-crowded and economically over-heated east and south-east England now have less of this means of sustaining life than does Sudan. London has lower rainfall than Rome or Nairobi.

But all this wet stuff of late has been refilling rivers and reservoirs and seeping into underground aquifers to be piped into homes when needed. It also means we can hang on to more of our wetlands where nature (and my spirit) flies free.

Have I been singing (and dancing) in the rain? You bet.

Yes, of course we must plan for a precarious future. Seeing a drenched wren on my sodden 11th floor balcony, I've just invested £50 (via 0800 7316770) in two ball-shaped nest boxes. For the female wren requires a choice of dwelling, with the male and fledged offspring later sleeping in the rejected one.

For £260 I could - and should - have bought a nestbox fitted with a camera (02476 323374). Now there's a fine excuse for telly on a rainy day.

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