Come Rain Or Shine

We Brits like to grumble about the weather. To the casual observer, it may seem like a pointless past time. To the meteorologists amongst you, it might seem bizarre. We rarely suffer from hurricanes or other storms more commonly associated with the tropics. The temperature rarely goes above 25 degrees C. It rarely drops more than a few degrees below zero, although it does get rather chilly up north in mid winter. The floods of last year were an anomaly, and probably wouldn’t be regarded as a serious event in more equatorial countries.

The commonly held theory as to why we Brits spend so much time grumbling about the weather is its unpredictability. It’s impossible to plan ahead. The weatherman on the BBC may make all sorts of promises as to what lies ahead over the next day or two, but he’s guessing. As opposed to predicting. The sun will shine tomorrow, he’ll declare! You hit the beach with your BBQ just in time for a downpour.

I have an alternative theory though. I think we Brits complain about the weather because of its utter predictability. Let me give you an example. The week before last was glorious. Virtually unbroken sunshine all day long with temperatures in the low to mid 20s. Beautiful. I saw it all from my seat in an office. On Friday I strolled out of work a happy man. I had a week off starting now. And a weekend in Kent/Sussex booked to go see some castles and stately homes. The sun, alas, also went on holiday and disappeared for three days. We returned from our short break, and so did the sun, bathing Bournemouth in all its glory. Just as I went down with a cold. The weather is unpredictably predictable.

But the grey, overcast skies did not spoil our trip. It did put rather a dampener on the photography though. A moody sky with dramatic sweeping clouds can be photogenic. A blanket of monotonous grey is not. But such is life, one can but work with what one has. I, perhaps, overworked the filters in Lightroom to compensate. First stop was Chartwell House. A fabulous home set amongst splendid gardens and once home to Sir Winston Churchill. He described a day away from Chartwell as a day wasted. After a few hours of roaming around his former manor, I see his point. There are plenty of his paintings to view in his old studio too. It’s a treasure trove of Churchillian memorabilia for fans of the former PM. Click here to see the album on Flickr.

Then on to Bodiam Castle. It’s a romantic’s dream wedding location. Deliberately left to ruin in one of the earliest attempts to drum up an income through touristpounds and shillings, it’s a castle I once visited as a child. It was enchanting then and remains so today. It was the inspiration of the short break away. It’s well worth a long drive all by itself.  The complete photo set is on Flickr – click here.

The final stop was at Scotney Castle. Which was a two for the price of one sort of deal. You have the grand old stately home. And the old castle, moat et al, in the rather ample and well manicured grounds. This place warrants a longer visit than Bodiam. It was still occupied by the last surviving member of the owning family until 2006. The lady was 99 years old when she finally left this mortal coil. I can’t help but feel 99 is such an unlucky age to die. I know, most of us would gratefully accept that age if it were offered to us in advance. Gratefully? Gleefully! And yet, having made it that far, you’d surely be disappointed not to make the full century. Wouldn’t you?

She was a cat fan. There’s ample evidence of a cat lover all over the property. Magazines, baskets, paintings, ornaments, statues. She owned many cats during her long life and called all of them Minou. All of them except the last one, whom she called Puss Puss. I can’t help but feel that was the jinx that stopped her short of her century. She should have kept the Minou tradition going. Or maybe I’m just being superstitious. Perhaps, being a cat lady, 9 is the key number when it comes to lives. And she had her 99. I don;t know how many lives Puss Puss will get, but the staff there assure us the cat is still doing well and in continuing residence at Scotney. We saw her baskets and food/water bowls. But we didn’t catch sight of the cat. I caught sight of plenty else. Once again, the photo album is on Flickr – click here.

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