Bright sunny morning here today. I checked the satellite view, and there was a broad river of cloud to the west, moving slowly north. To the east of it a further wing of cloud was also moving slowly north. High cirrus, I decided. It would provide a welcome filter to the otherwise intense sunlight when I reached the pub for my long slow pint.
I parked about 200 yards from the pub, and sauntered down to it in the sun. I ordered a beer and a plate of crispy pork on salad, and went to sit out in the garden. The high cirrus arrived on time just as I had completed the crispy pork and had opened a book and was starting on the long slow pint.
But beneath the cirrus there soon emerged some puffs of cumulus. The sun vanished behind them, but it remained very warm. I continued slowly drinking my pint as I read about Hannibal’s victories over the Romans at Lake Trasimene and Cannae.
I disregarded the first few drops of rain from the darkening cumulus overhead. but after a while it became impossible to ignore, and so I decamped to the awning outside the back door of the pub to finish my half-empty pint and roll another cigarette.
The rain got heavier. I began to hear thunder. Something bounced noisily of a roof and skittered across the floor. A lump of hail. Rainwater pipes began discharging water explosively all around me.
Next the awning began to rapidly fill with water, and the pub landlady appeared carrying a pole and said she’d have to empty it. It had in fact already begun to empty itself down the wall onto the bag holding the book on the Carthaginian war.
Clutching my soaking bag and my unfinished pint, I stood in the doorway as the landlady prodded the awning to make the water spill out of the sides, gushing over the floor. I doused my cigarette and retreated inside the pub.
In the pub I’m known as Mister Sunshine, because I only ever arrive when it’s sunny. And as the thunder and lightning played overhead, and the rain and hail pelted down, I could palpably feel that reputation ebbing away. It will only be an ironical designation from now on, made with a frosty look and a sardonic smile.
I eventually finished my pint at the bar, and reached into my bag for the umbrella in the bottom. It took a while to find it under all the envelopes and bags and receipts. It hadn’t been used for years, and when I opened it I found that numerous receipts had somehow managed to get into the folds of the umbrella. They all fell out onto the floor when I began gingerly opening it.
The rain hadn’t let up when I finally stepped out onto the street, after picking up all the receipts from the floor. But there was a butcher shop next to the pub with an awning in front of it. So I stood under the awning, looking at the array of meats behind the window.
I hadn’t planned on buying any meat, but I thought I might as well, now that I was there. With luck the rain would have eased by the time I came back out. So I stepped inside and took my time ordering. First some minced beef. And then some rather exotic cold meat. And then some venison and wild boar terrine. And then some Stilton cheese. Yes, butchers round here also sell cheese.
But when I finally emerged, heavily laden with meat and cheese, it was still raining hard, and the thunder and lightning hadn’t diminished. I set out for the car 200 yards up the road, slightly worried whether my metal umbrella would act as a lightning conductor. There’d be an obituary in the local paper next week: Meat Man Struck By Lightning.
The road had become a little flooded with the deluge, and the passing cars were spraying the pavement beside it with water. I found myself looking for the bigger puddles in the road, and waiting for the cars to pass them before I scuttled past.
This wasn’t easy, because the uneven pavement beside the road had also filled up with large puddles, and I had to navigate my way round these in my thin blue leather shoes, in addition to dodging the spray from the cars as they drove through the puddles in the road.
I stopped briefly outside a shop selling towels and cushions, but I didn’t really want to end up carrying a bunch of unwanted towels and cushions in addition to the burden of meat and cheese I’d already acquired.
When I finally reached the car, which stood in a pool of water completely surrounding it, the rain began to ease. I couldn’t reach the driver door, but I could open the passenger door. So I climbed in the passenger side, and over the gear stick and handbrake.
My long slow pint had turned into a veritable battle of Lake Trasimene. And my bag was soaked. And I’d acquired a load of meat and cheese I hadn’t really wanted. And my reputation was in tatters.
And all of it was the fault of Tobacco Control, I thought, as I started the car. Nobody else. Because but for them I’d have been able to sit inside the warm, dry pub with my pint and my cigarette, and would have barely noticed the storm outside.
And it’s venison and wild boar terrine for dinner tonight. And minced beef in Stilton cheese. And not just tonight, but quite likely for the next week or two.