I once wrote a short story about a disused slate quarry in North Wales. An effortlessly dull place that our housemaster used to take us to on Sunday afternoons to relieve the boredom of school. Sadly, there was nothing much to do at Glen Ceiriog either, except throw rocks down the abandoned scree slope or quietly knock one off in the dense pine forest that screened the place from the outside world. If it was raining we simply sat in the minibus waiting to be driven back for the evening roll-call. Needless to say life’s a lot more interesting now. Except the weather, which reminds me of that gloomy slate quarry: Greyness meets greyness meets greyness was the line in my story.
The current climatic conditions in Lyon can’t be classed as weather. More a gap in the atmosphere where once rain, snow and cloud lived. A gigantic smudge on a cityscape watercolour left by a careless artist who knocked his dirty paintbrush water all over it and then went to bed. Everyday for the past week I’ve woken up to this hideous canvas hanging in front of my window. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty sick of it.
There’s a huge concrete apartment block across the river from where I live and on days like these I can see no discernable edge to the building. The sky engulfs it and then erases it like a giant rubber. Photoshopped from existence. Recoverable only with a special password: SUMMER
A meteorologist would not classify the current conditions as cloudy. Or even overcast. I checked: overcast is 95% of the sky covered by cloud. This is 100%. A twenty tog double-king-size duvet blanketing the city. Barely a perceptible change from dawn to dust. People opening their fridge doors to stare at the bright light inside to remind them of what daytime is like.
I wouldn’t normally complain. I’m a man of all seasons. I can take the heat along with the cold. Icy weather is good for the heart. Slows it down, takes the strain off the vessels, allows you to think. But this blotting paper weather with its zero distinction between land and sky has affected me. And certainly my balance.
Cycling to Egis Rail yesterday morning through the blankness, I nearly crashed into my fellow cyclists at least three times.
‘Connard! Bastardo! Jackass!’ I all heard along the way.
I felt like I’d had a few too many. Five pints and a couple of chasers. But it was 10.30 in the morning. I was coffeetime sober. It was very strange and I concluded that my body simply didn’t like the weather. It didn’t feel natural. No sun, no wind, no rain. As though a gigantic glass globe had been placed over the city and filled with gas containing melancholy, vertigo and lethargy in equal measures.
Perhaps I need it though. If I didn’t have the weather to obsess about, what sort of English teacher would I be. What would I talk to my students about for twenty minutes at the beginning of every lesson? What would I teach if it wasn’t the weather. It keeps me going. Just as Glen Ceiriog kept me going twenty five years ago. One thing was always guaranteed as we looked out over the desolate landscape. Things couldn’t get any worse.