Book notes: Turned out nice again—Richard Mabey

On weather

It’s the one circumstance of life which we share in common. It affects our bodies, our moods, our behavior, the structure of our environments. It can change the cost of living and the likelihood of death. It is a kind of a common language itself.

On ball lightning

No convincing explanation has been found for this apparition, which is usually associated with storms, and appears as a bright, vaguely spherical ball of electromagnetic energy capable of moving through the air, breaking windows and entering buildings, crawling up walls and along floors , and occasionally killing people stone dead.

On black dog

The phrase ‘black dog; became a metaphor for another kind of affliction—melancholy or depression. ‘ When I raise my breakfast is solitary , the black dog waits to share it, from breakfast to dinner he continues barking…’

Halcyon days

In Mediterranean mythology, the kingfisher was believed to incubate its eggs on the surface of the sea, during the spell in November when water and weather were always calm, and which was later known as St Martin’s Little Summer.

The winter of 1979 was notorious for its relentless gloom. On 22 February, I was walking down London’s Lower Regent Street, that shadowy chasm of tall buildings, when the sun suddenly peeped through the clouds for the first time in weeks. Quite spontaneously, almost everyone stepped off the pavement into the thin ribbon of watery sunshine in the road, giggling like children in delighted surprise. I’m pretty sure I recall a few brief dance twirls being executed too.

When was your last halcyon day?

Of course about a bar in England

Even during the terrible storm surge of 31 January, 1953, in which 307 people lost their lives, this spirit survived. In the bar of the Jolly Sailors in the Suffolk coaster village of Orford, there is a brass plaque on the wall marking the level reached by the floodwaters. The locals kept drinking by taking to the tabletops while the landlord dived down heroically into the cellar to bring up ned barrels of beer.