Short Little Span Of Attention

Raindrops keep falling on my head…

I feel as if I should be riding round in circles on a bicycle, typing this. Alas, my bicycle-riding days are over.

This one is about how to keep dry at bus stops. Since being forced into the realms of Public Transport I have only been drenched at a bus stop once, but that was enough. The thing with bus stops is that you may have to wait up to an hour at one, and that’s an awful lot of getting wet to endure when all you want is to be already at home with your lunchtime sandwich, swilling back cups of tea.

I thought I had made provision for this by including in my bag the light duty green festival rain cape. Remember, in a previous post I mentioned a heavy duty green festival rain cape? This is now permanently installed on my bed to protect it from senile cats wanting to wee on it.

The light duty green festival rain cape was no good at all. I wrestled it over my head, spectacles and pony-tail, and the head tore off. I deposited the head in the bus-stop-side refuse bin in disgust and sat for the next half an hour in the remaining three-quarters of the rain cape. It seemed not quite long enough to cover the sit-upon problem either, and the bench was damp.

I have been stewing on this problem ever since. I mean, in the middle of summer you don’t always want to be carting around your winter coat just in case. Bulk and weight are the enemy of the traveller on Public Transport – or any traveller. On the other hand, in Britain you can never say it isn’t going to rain. It nearly always is going to, and if you fail one day to take a rainwear of some sort with you, it’s definitely going to.

This morning whilst washing up in my dressing gown the solution came to me – clear plastic bin bags. Our local Council insists on these for excess recyclable waste, because they suspect that we will otherwise be attempting to sneak out our excess vegetable peelings and general filth. They don’t provide them, of course, you have to buy them.

So, what you do: you take two of the clear plastic bin sacks and just leave them folded exactly as they are. This saves having to squeeze the air out, which is a pain. Then you take another two and slit them up one side, and you nest one of the slit-up-the-side bags inside the other. You fold them up like this and squeeze out the air. The whole lot fits inside something the size of a pencil case.

The idea is this. You arrive at the bus stop just as it starts to rain. You observe the bus you ought to have caught disappearing into the distance, so you’ve got an hour to wait. Black clouds loom overhead, the rain is going to get heavier and you do not have a mac. So, you whip out your clear plastic bags. You fold one into four and place it on the damp bench, to sit on. You take the two operated on bags and place them over your head like a monk’s cowl. This will keep you dry(ish) from head to hip, and the bags are light enough that you can push them out of the way to check if the bus is coming, even if you can’t see through them. You sit down on your folded bin sack and place the remaining sack over your knees like an invalid rug.

I haven’t tried this yet, but promise I will as soon as it rains. I imagine it won’t work well in a gale, in which case I suppose the answer is to find a shop doorway or walk to the nearest bus stop with a shelter. Amazing how many bus stops do not have shelter, or only overhanging trees to drip down your neck or expose you to lightning-strike.

One of the few benefits of having a creative turn of mind plus a short little span of attention.

It’s raining…rubies?

There is always something new to learn. Life seems to be a kind of curve. Humans start off knowing they know nothing (but not caring as long as the milk keeps flowing and the nappies get changed). They progress through a period of being convinced they know everything to a much longer period of thinking they know quite a lot, but maybe not everything. Finally comes the bittersweet realisation – I know very little, and there is not enough time left for learning. But we can keep an open mind, can’t we? We can stoop to gather such tiny gems of information as may fall onto the pavement as we shuffle along.

A while back I watched a Horizon programme about weather on other planets. Until then I had thought of weather as something that happened all the time in Britain, on rare occasions elsewhere, but certainly not out in space.

But yes. For instance on Saturn the temperatures are so high and the pressure so great that it rains diamonds! On other planets it is thought to rain rubies – and sapphires. Apparently a green crystal rain falls on a star called HOPS-68. There is even a newly-discovered planet called 55 Cancri e which is twice the size of earth and made of diamond.

You’d need a pretty big finger to wear that baby.

Why don’t they call stars romantic names anymore – Sirius, Vega, Arcturus, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix, Altair or Achermar? Can you imagine Captain Kirk: Beam me down, Scottie – I shall pay a visit the HOPS-68ians or Spock reminding everyone that the 55 Cancri e-ites were a matriarchal society known for their extreme ferocity?

Well, pretty dull here on Earth then. All it rains here is water. And animals. In Singapore in 1861, it rained fish that had probably been caught up in a waterspout at sea and then dropped over land. Here is an illustration of that event:

raining-fish

Toads and frogs are rumoured to tumble down during tornadoes. Sometimes they are reported to be “startled, but healthy” on landing. Other times the poor things arrive shredded, frozen to death or encased in ice. Flocks of migrating birds can be killed in flight if caught up in a tornado, or may fall to the ground stunned.

Then there are all the imaginary or metaphorical things it could be raining. According to The Weather Girls, of course, It’s Raining Men. René Magritte agreed although his men were less interesting:

raining-men

The phrase it’s raining cats and dogs (archaic version: it’s raining cats, dogs and pitchforks) is apparently taught to all foreign students of English.

pitchforks

English people rarely say it nowadays: as The Independent points out they are more likely to remark that it’s bucketing down or – less politely – pissing down.

I thought I might leave you with a few translations of the textbook British expression to savour:

It’s raining old women with knobkerries (clubs) – Afrikaans

It’s raining barrels and casks – Catalan

Basin-bending rain is falling – Mandarin

Dog poo is falling – Cantonese

It’s raining wheelbarrows – Czech

It’s raining shoemakers’ apprentices – Danish

It’s a frog-strangling gully washer – Australian

It’s raining frogs/ropes/halberds/nails/buckets/like a pissing cow – French

It’s raining eyes and ears shut – Thai

It’s raining female trolls – Norwegian

It’s throwing cobblers knives – Irish

Tractors are falling – Slovak

It’s even raining husbands – Spanish

Earth and sand are falling – Japanese

Dogs are drinking in their noses (Haitian Creole)

Dogs are…?

Apparently, yes.

NaPoWriMo 5/4/16: Ashford in November

It’s our town now. In the face of a wet wind

We tack from lighted shop to lighted shop

Or sit and smoke, staring from burger bars.

Our tea’s too hot; it’s steaming up the windows,

Our shopping bags are stashed beneath the tables

And it’s our town now.

 

It’s our town now. In the Municipal Park

Only the man with the overcoat remains.

This is where it rains, this is somewhere trains

Shoot through, and rubbish skips round corners;

This is where we wonder

Whether to queue for the Post Office now or later.

And it’s our town now.

 

It’s our town now. It’s not LA or London,

It’s not a tourist attraction

And it’s not where we would have wanted once to be;

But it is where We are We

And it’s our town now.

Unnaturally Birds

I remember when we were driving / In the summer of seventy-three, / We were talking, but of nothing, / That’s the way it would always be; / And how much I longed to touch you / And to say I understood. / But I never did, my dearest / And like you, I never could.

For months it had rained on England, / There was green in every tree, / And we flew along those country roads / Beneath the canopy, / In our second skin of metal / And our third skin of words, / Pretending to be human, / Unnaturally birds.

I wonder when you die, my dear, / Will I see you as you are, / Or will you drift away again / To perch on a different star?

 

I’m just sitting watching flowers in the rain

So we found ourselves in Sheerness in September, in the rain. This always happens at some point when my Canadian sister is staying. I suppose it’s sort of quaint, or at any rate quite unlike Edmonton, and that’s why she likes it. And seeing it’s raining cats and dogs, might as well go as not. So we go, and almost immediately split up because we are both ‘lone shoppers’ by nature. S heads for her favourite clothes shop; I squelch off on a quest for a post box and a bookshop.

I find a post box, eventually, outside the main post office; there don’t seem to be any others. Of course it’s difficult to see when the rain is running down your glasses. I may have missed the other one. It is at this point that I discover the toggle on my rain-jacket hood has somehow, internally, got knotted. I can raise the hood but there is nothing I can do to keep it on my head. And foolishly I have worn a knee-length dress-tunic thing over leggings. Cheap, comfy and accommodating to any figure, leggings go with almost anything. They are  de rigeur in Sheerness and I felt in need of camouflage. Now, in the wind and the wet, the dress starts creeping up towards the hem of my jacket and I keep having to stop in shop doorways to retrieve it, without appearing to be retrieving it. Also the knees of my leggings are getting soggy. At some point I give up the search for a bookshop and instead buy a copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter for £1 in a charity shop, duck into a café and order a cup of tea.

The café is full of gently-steaming old people, which is how they probably see me – oh, just another steamy old baggage. I don’t feel I can, as a single tea-drinker, commandeer a whole wobbly silver table and four chairs so I head for the wobbly silver stools looking out over the High Street. They are very high, for a steamy old person, but I manage to mount one in stages, and without embarrassment. The High Street is one car wide, and cars creep along between the scurryers, moochers and shoppers on either pavement, spraying them with water. Nobody seems to notice. So many people in track-suit bottoms with walking boots and inadequate tee shirts. So many push-chairs. So many walking appliances – zimmers, crutches, walkers – more wobbly silver stuff. So many ladies in those plastic concertina rain bonnets. My Mum used to have those for coming out the hairdressers after a perm. I gather a perm will go frizzy if the rain gets to it. Hers used to have polka dots: these don’t even have dots.

Waiting for my tea, still, I read the notes on the back cover of The Scarlet Letter and put it to one side – face down so as not to attract attention – and make a few notes for my next post. I am next to the door and every time someone opens it there is a draught, which reminds me that the knees of my leggings are wet. My hair is dripping down my neck. Opposite there is a florist’s shop. The sign in the window says Weddings & Funerals. The ampersand seems to be of some importance. Bunches of tall flowers stand in tall plastic pots on the pavement, and the rain rains relentlessly on.

My tea arrives. I like it in this café in spite of the awfulness of the tea. Or perhaps because. I am always happiest in places where nothing at all can be expected of me, other than ordering, sitting for a while, paying up and leaving. The mug is too small – cream with raised dots around the rim, and it has a saucer. The saucer is so that when you rescue your tea-bag from the mahogany liquid in which it swims you have somewhere to put it.

I make more notes, watched by a little girl who is leaning on one elbow. I pretend not to have seen her. My ‘note-taking’ writing, like the notebook that lives in my handbag, is tiny. Writing in word-and-shorthand (Word & Shorthand?) salad, I continue not to look at the child, who is perched on another of these wobbly silver stools. Her young mother stands facing the other way, talking into her mobile phone. How did J K Rowling ever manage to find herself on a train, with the idea for Harry Potter in her head and no pencil and paper? How could she ever have broken that cardinal rule of writing? But then, she wrote Harry Potter and made millions. And I didn’t, for all my notebooks.

A woman walks past, her face raw and tense against the rain. For a moment I think it is me, but no it isn’t. She is younger than me. I keep forgetting. It’s that doppelganger again.

Singing, or something, in the rain

It’s a good thing I live in England. There wouldn’t be nearly enough rain anywhere else. How could anyone bear to live in a desert, deprived of that reassuring splashy-sploshy sound, those puddly, half-empty streets, that blessed curtain of anonymity? How do people think of anything to talk about where there is neither rain nor the possibility of rain?

And of course, it’s raining today. Earlier on I found some shoes and a mac and shuffled up to the post box with a letter. I live in an unmade road, and all its craters were full of muddy water. Sparrows were bathing. Where do sparrows bathe where there is no rain? What do sparrows drink? Or perhaps where there is no rain there are no sparrows. Coming back I met my down-the-end-of-the road neighbour – hooded, wellington-booted, stout walking stick in one hand and the end of Big Puppy’s lead in the other. Big Puppy is no longer a puppy and has a proper name which I’ve got written down somewhere for Christmas card purposes – something inappropriate – Charles or Montmorency.

Well, what do you think if this then? she remarks, not stopping.

Lovely for August, isn’t it? I reply, also not stopping.

They say it’s set in for the week, she chuckles, disappearing round the bend.

Now, what else could we have discoursed about with such convenient brevity, without having to get wetter than we already were?

My next-door neighbour just got a dog too. Huge, long-leggety beastie. Midnight black. I think of him as Baskerville although he may be a lady; I can’t see his undercarriage in that much detail from my spy-window on the upstairs landing. He/she has a very deep woof. Every night starting about 11pm he/she conducts long, lovelorn conversations across my back garden and under my bedroom window for what feels like hours with Millicent, the chocolate labradoodle on the other side :

  • Wooooooof!!
  • Woof?
  • Woooooooff!
  • Woof? Woof?
  • Woooooooff!

And then other dogs stationed all over the hillside join in.

  • Woof?
  • Woof-Woof!
  • Woof?!

Come spring I may need move house. But it’s possible Baskerville will have moved on by then. Maybe he’s the school dog and it’s Neighbour’s turn to look after him in the summer holidays, as is the case with class guinea pigs, class rats etc. Maybe he belongs to her second-cousin who’s gone to Spain for six weeks and will shortly return to claim him.

They say particular personality types are attracted to rain. According to the internet (so it must be true) these types tend to be INFP on the Myers-Briggs typology:

Creative, smart, idealist, loner, attracted to sad things, disorganized, avoidant, can be overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings, prone to quitting, prone to feelings of loneliness, ambivalent of the rules, solitary, daydreams about people to maintain a sense of closeness, focus on fantasies, acts without planning, low self-confidence, emotionally moody, can feel defective, prone to lateness, likes esoteric things, wounded at the core, feels shame, frequently losing things, prone to sadness, prone to dreaming about a rescuer, disorderly, observer, easily distracted, does not like crowds, can act without thinking, private, can feel uncomfortable around others, familiar with the darkside, hermit, more likely to support marijuana legalization, can sabotage self, likes the rain, sometimes can’t control fearful thoughts, prone to crying, prone to regret, attracted to the counter culture, can be submissive, prone to feeling discouraged, frequently second guesses self, not punctual, not always prepared, can feel victimized, prone to confusion, prone to irresponsibility, can be pessimistic.

I did the test out of interest and came out INFJ which is, if anything, worse. Very similar description. Where does that bit about marijuana legalization come from? And familiar with the darkside? Wot, like Darth Vader?

At least I am now in an appropriate profession, if you can call it a profession when you don’t make any money from it. Writers, unsurprisingly, fall into INFP and INFJ as do poets, painters, musicians, songwriters, art historians, library assistants, cartoonists, philosophers, environmentalists, bookstore owners… Can’t you just see us all?

  • Stringy beards…
  • Oxfam tank-tops…
  • Sandals…
  • Round-shouldered…
  • Unwashed.

But still I do like rain, even if it does consign me to some morbid, sad-sack, creative psycho-ghetto. As a child on my daily walk to the station to catch the train to school, I would pass an allotment plot with a wire fence. When it had been raining I used to tap the wires to release the raindrops collected on the wires. It was a kind of magic. Impossible to think about double maths when tapping raindrops. As a teenager, when I first began to realise I was going to have to be a writer I used to imagine myself living alone in a kind of shed with a tin roof in the middle of a forest. The tin roof was important. In my fantasy there was an ancient black typewriter like the one I taught myself to touch-type on, and it was always raining. Rain on the tin roof. Rain in the forest outside. Rain and writing, writing and rain. Now I am older I think I might include a threadbare sofa, a loaf of crusty bread, a pot of jam and a cat or two.

Later I liked to watch the blue or orange reflections of street lights in puddles at night, and I enjoyed those old  fifties films where it always seemed to be raining. Singing in the Rain has to be the rain film of all rain films. All that joyous splashing about. Not that I’d ever do that. Dance. Splash about. Joyously. None of that carry-on.

In any case, here I am, not in a rainy forest with a typewriter but on a stormy hillside with a word-processor and the incessantly Woooooofing Baskerville for company. Oh, and now some lunatic has decided to start some chain-sawing-in-the rain two roads up. People – it’s people who spoil things. Ooops – INFJ-ing again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ZYhVpdXbQ

Gene Kelly Singing in the Rain, of course. Doesn’t it remind you of when you are a child and you see a ginormous puddle and you just have to….

And this link is to the original Everly Brothers’ version of Crying In The Rain. They were so young and beautiful at the time. YouTube also has one of them some years later and somewhat chubbier. By this time something sad seems to have happened, either to them or the song. It’s all very glitzy but they sound like they’re singing at half speed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qox-X5zr0lM

Ah, thunder…