Clouds In My Head

Christopher Fowler

Winter Is Icumen In

After last year's glorious summer there was a hope that this year Britain would enjoy the same, but to gamble on the weather is to have your hopes smashed. Here's the Met office on why it felt like the British summer was flushed down the drain; 'The perception of a summer of bad weather was felt most keenly in London and the south-east.
London's rainfall was 48 per cent above its long-term average for summer.
As a result, these areas have also seen significantly less sunshine than usual - between 25 and 35 per cent fewer hours than average.'
Now autumn appears to have been bypassed so that we can go straight to winter. I watch forest fire footage from Australia and feel envious. I see abortion protests in Texas with blue skies above the protestors and think,
'Not a single cloud. Wow.'
It's been a blow to those of us who have become hyper-sensitive to light. My relationship to the diurnal cycle heavily affects my writing. While there is fierce light I can think clearly and work; I went to Barcelona to write 'Oranges & Lemons' and finished it in two thirds of the normal time. Now
Brexit has limited the period of time Britons can spend in Europe, and any kind of international travel has become a Kafkaesque nightmare.
The travel of the past - weekend hops to Amsterdam or Paris, Friday afternoon meetings held in Nice simply because it's nicer - can't return unless we were to - gasp! - rejoin Europe.
I dread winter in the UK. London is an indoor city that turns the eye upon itself. It doggedly stages outdoor arts events with a kind of desperation, as if the arts must go on no matter how uncomfortable the experience. I've sworn never to attend another open-air 'Midsummer Night's Dream' in the month of August. 'I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon.'
That's because it hasn't stopped pissing down, mate.
Friends who went to an outdoor screening of 'Orlando' last week got rained upon (to be expected) but found the event ruined by the drone of police helicopters monitoring another ludicrous 'Extinction Rebellion' protest, where anti-capitalists, anti-vaxxers and anyone bearing a grudge wander about without any plans for their new world order. With thoughts of light I sit here unable to clear the endless grey clouds from my head.
I remove a leaflet concerning side effects from my box of meds. What are the main ones?
Inability to concentrate, confusion, dizziness, forgetfulness, inability to
walk steadily,
think clearly or write.
Once I could write anywhere, with any amount of noise and disruption. Now it seems I am a prisoner of chemistry. Perhaps it's just another form of writer's block and can be overcome. Time will tell.


Paul+C (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 11:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sorry to see you in such low spirits, maestro
At least you haven't attended an open air performance of The Tempest in the ruins of North Shields priory. When Prospero turned seaward to summon his terrible storm there was no need for special effects. At least the actors could move about a bit to keep warm......

Really hope you feel better soon. At least we're not in Kabul..........

Brooke (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 12:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

News from The Water Room. My mobile started screaming at 2:30 am today. Alert--river had breached the seawall. Gotta go--alarm sounding.

Jo W (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 12:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh Brooke, I do hope you and all are safe!
We here in south London have had an August of dreary grey skies and only occasional drizzle. My garden plants have packed up for the winter! Now we know where the moisture has gone, but who out there in commenters land, has all the blue skies?
Chris, close your eyes, see the sun and think warm. If that doesn't work, have a cuppa builders.

Anna-Maria Covich (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 13:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I hate winter, and rain. I'm a fan of sunlight too. I don't necessarily want to be out in it, but I still want to see it when I'm inside. A sunny day feels more alive.

Christopher Fowler Thu, 02/09/2021 - 13:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sun = Life

Brooke, I hope you're not flooded out.

I saw Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero at the Globe Theatre, and at 'Blow wind and crack your cheeks' we had thunder. OK, we all got drenched later but it was worth it for that.

Peter+T (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 14:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Well, the sun has put his hat on and come out in Oxford ... for a few minutes. Really, 'sunny' climates are overrated.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 14:17

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ah yes, record rainfall, catastrophic flooding, wildfires, the Arctic melting, more and stronger tropical cyclones. Those pesky sunspots and volcanoes again. Nothing to do with man pumping vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere (whatever Nigel Lawson now says). All due to natural, cyclical changes. Why, according to climatologists, we should be having another ice age about now, but thanks to global warming that won't happen. Whew--dodged that bullet. /s

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 14:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hope you are okay Brooke. I understand the middle of the night phone alarms - only for me it's been fires which fortunately didn't advance to the area of the city I'm in but weren't all that far off either. Take care.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 15:56

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@admin As I mentioned before (file it under 'deathless prose'...) the Aztecs worshipped the Sun, and feared that it would disappear if they didn't perform various rituals, including human sacrifice. Clearly there hasn't been enough human sacrifice in the UK. Suggest you contact the Rt Hon George Eustice MP (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and advocate for more.

Peter+T (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 16:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Possibly, winter and weather is merely a fantasy. Very much like Breugel's painting that shows a location in the Low Countries which doesn't exist or even resemble anywhere. There are some serious hills in the south of Belgium, but not mountains.

Yes, fantasy, fantasy sunshine: what about Bryant and May meet Pepe Carvalho?

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 16:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As I also mentioned before the 'chemo-brain' fog will slowly lift for most and that you said it had begun, is a good sign. Now, as for the frustration you must be feeling --- and understanding this is not a formal diagnosis --- chances are you you may be suffering from what has been termed "amygdala hijack." The amygdala are masses of cells on either side or hemisphere of the brain where our emotions are given meaning, remembered, and attached to associations and responses to them.

The frontal lobes, on the other hand, are the two large areas to the front of your brain where thinking, reasoning, decision-making, and planning happen and thus --- which allow us to process and think about emotion. With deep frustration and anger, the amygdala essentially override or overpower the frontal lobes. Without the frontal lobes calling the shots, you can't think clearly, make rational decisions, or control your responses. Control has been "hijacked" by the amygdala.

So when you begin to feel especially frustrated, the idea is to remind yourself that what you're feeling is an automatic response, not necessarily the right or logical one. Now, this will probably come across as 'airy-fairy,' but the way you mitigate the hijacking of your rational thought is through mindfulness --- focusing on the moment, what you're thinking and feeling, your surroundings and even your bodily sensations --- not future tasks and past problems. Practice deep breathing and focus on the process, how your body reacts to inhaling and exhaling. The idea is to change your brain's focus from responding to a 'threat' --- the stress brought on by frustration -- to emotional peace and calmness.

This, of course, takes practice but now that you're away from the distracting sunshine of Barcelona, you no doubt will have plenty of time to do so. And, of course, keep writing to continue to exercise your frontal and parietal lobes --- again, anything. and preferably by hand. The human brain is still such a mysterious organ, the fog may completely lift and you'll find yourself able to write in Mandarin.

Keith (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 16:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

At least we have been spared the intense Southern European heat this year. Two years ago we had 35-40C temps here in Holland, for 3 months, and living in a small 100 year old village home with no airr-con and just a small garden it certainly wasn't pleasant, especially undergoing cancer treatment.
Would have loved to have met up with you on one of your Amsterdam jaunts.
Hope the clouds soon lift and your mojo returns.

Peter+T (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 18:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Brooke, We all hope that you are somewhere safe and that your home doesn't suffer damage.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 18:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The Saturday in the middle of August was when we felt that summer was over and the autumn rains would begin because it was the beginning of the two week long fall fair. (Note to their administration: PNE stands for Pacific National Exhibition so saying "the Fair at the PNE" is just confusing.) We have had summer weather all summer, too much summer a few times, and it is still with us. It's to be 25 deg. today, possibly higher inland and you really can't ask for better than that. There are to be possible showers over the weekend but it's Labour Day weekend and what would a barbecue be without showers or a downpour or two. Besides, the kids go back to school on Tuesday and you wouldn't want them to feel they were missing some summer, would you.
Now, about that Met. report you cited above; where do they get off calling that assemblage of data an "appearance" of bad weather. That IS bad summer weather even for London.
The downside of all that sunny weather is that half the province is under fire alerts with smoke affecting those with breathing problems and one small village burned to the ground. One of our retired Meteorologists had moved to an interior town and said she really missed reporting on conditions so she was contacted and we heard wind gust by wind gust reporting on the fire raging across her lake. Now that is an appropriate response to local weather.
If I had that previously mentioned magic invention I'd have you brought here to our lovely late summer weather to invigorate your thought processes. Not taking you to Stanley Park, though, because coyotes have taken over the undergrowth and are attacking joggers and small children because there are idiots out there feeding them so they can take photos to post to the internet. The park is "closed" at night now and they are talking about "culling" the coyotes.

Mimi (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 19:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Can you replace some light bulbs with the pinkish daylight types? Would that help?

We stole most of the water from Eastern California, so now folks think it will be just as easy to pipe water from the Mississippi to the west coast. Someday geography will be taught in our schools. Meanwhile, NOAA is predicting a La Nina (no rain) this year. We would love some of your rain.

Joan (not verified) Thu, 02/09/2021 - 19:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Wish we could have some rain as well, we've been cooking in Eastern Canada, it was over 100F one day last week with the humidity. I can't imagine coping without A/C, how did I grow up without it!
Sorry to hear about the Coyotes Helen, out your way, we have them in the woods back of where I live. They haven't been a problem, apart from being at my fence a few times. I believe in Toronto they have grabbed a few small dogs this summer. Maybe they are angry too, like all the Anti-Vaccers! Hope you are not under water Brooke!

Lisa Q (not verified) Fri, 03/09/2021 - 05:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Here in Portland, Oregon, we've had more sun this summer than many of us have seen in our entire lives. Three days of around 116F temps in June, and no real rain since early summer. It's unnerving and off-putting to be able to actually get a tan suddenly in the Pacific Northwest. They like to say it always rains here, but that used to be a lie to keep Californians from moving here. Climate change, however, has made it unfortunately untrue.

Christopher Fowler Fri, 03/09/2021 - 09:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh, you and your wonderful-sounding warm-weather lifestyles! Do you know what it's like to shop for sweaters in July?
The weird weather has mainly only affected London. Scotland is scorching and even rainy Manchester is hot. We're trapped beneath cloud cover that hasn't broken in three weeks. Oh for a glimpse of blue sky!

Jo W (not verified) Fri, 03/09/2021 - 11:50

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

" That little tent of blue, which prisoners call the sky"
Thanks Oscar!

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 03/09/2021 - 13:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Blue skies smilin' at me
Nothing but blue skies, do I see
Blue days all of them gone
Nothin' but blue skies from now on

--- Irving Berlin

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Fri, 03/09/2021 - 14:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The book 'The body keeps the score' Bessel Van Der Kolk gives an excellent explanation of what Stu-I-Am said.
It sounds like woo, but it really isn't.

Hope you are safe, Brooke.

Paul+C (not verified) Fri, 03/09/2021 - 15:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Visiting London at the end of September - can anyone recommend a good dramatic play please ? I've seen The Woman in Black (terrific) and don't fancy The Mousetrap (friends weren't keen) or chirpy musicals

Thanks !

Chris+Lancaster (not verified) Fri, 03/09/2021 - 17:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Fantastic to see you've used my Hunters in the Snow as the picture accompanying this post.

For me, it invokes thoughts of winter like nothing else; a large print of it hangs over the fireplace in our living-room. Even on the hottest day of summer, I can look at it and instantly be transported to a crisp snowy January day. Not that we get many of those in Blighty these days, of course.

Brooke (not verified) Sat, 04/09/2021 - 12:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Greetings. Thank you for your good wishes.
Won't bore you with grim details of flood and damage and life without power. Throwing away food is the awful part.
Strange .. blue skies ..you know the Degas blue...as firemen in red rubber rafts paddled along the river ways that were our streets. Blue skies and mild 77 for past two days.
Jay Z live nation and Justin Brober are here...damn them.

Liz+Thompson (not verified) Sat, 04/09/2021 - 13:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Outdoor events in the UK are pretty risky at any time, even during our 'glorious' summer. Just talking about having a barbecue is enough to get me checking where my oilproofs and wellington boots are. The old folklore about weather forecasting by hanging a piece of seaweed by the back door is relevant. (Hint: if it's dripping, you know it's raining). The north of the UK may allegedly be warmer and brighter than the south and London, but I can't say I've noticed. Grey, cloudy, cold enough to look for a woolly jumper. Not quite cold enough to turn the central heating on, but I'm contemplating it.
Brooke - do hope you are ok. The NYT has had terrifying reports of the flooding, deaths, damage etc.

Keith (not verified) Sat, 04/09/2021 - 18:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Just has a peek at your Twitter account.... I'm not a tweeter so I can't respond on there, but my God that was quick. A new thriller in the blink of an eye? Hot Water sounds fascinating- can't wait! Wonderful news.... Wasn't it Titan that published one of your short story collections?

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sat, 04/09/2021 - 22:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

So, Brooke, you've got yourself somewhere with electricity & a web connection, so I'm assuming heat and light, but water and food, somewhere to sleep? Please bore us with the whole circumstances. I imagine you were emergency evacuated in that middle of the night alarm, but then what? And what is your home like now?

Admin, what did you know and when did you know it? I have just read about the plans in place to deal with the queen's death, whenever that should occur. All security systems have worst case scenarios to deal with any eventuality so there is nothing surprising there but the plan's code name is "London Bridge"? I'm not surprised that some of the media learned about it but to publish it when her majesty is apparently quite well but still mourning her husband seems more than a little tasteless, especially as the plans can't be a surprise to any of them. Unless the plans call for an immediate declaration of a republic and the turning over to the National Trust of all royal properties.

Christopher Fowler Sun, 05/09/2021 - 09:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Paul+C - Leopaldstat by Tom Stoppard - constellations

Helen - the plans were leaked but I knew (can't remember how) that they were call London Bridge.

More details of the thriller to follow.

Paul C (not verified) Sun, 05/09/2021 - 18:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks a lot, Chris. I have bought a ticket for the Tom Stoppard. Much appreciated.

Roger (not verified) Sun, 05/09/2021 - 18:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hope today's weather cheered you up, Admin!
More on the way, they say.

David+Ronaldson (not verified) Sun, 05/09/2021 - 20:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I wish it had been colder today. Foolishly credulous regarding the weather forecast, I bought a fine joint of beef for the first Sunday roast since early spring and duly suffered in the kitchen cooking everything, including Yorkshire pudding today...

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 06/09/2021 - 00:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

David, you could have been quite comfortable cooking it here since everything is still damp from yesterday's rain and it's still cloudy.
We had an interesting conversation this morning about vaccinations and gatherings. We're not going to gather until it is warranted safe. When one person advocated compulsory vaccination there was a universal "no", but we agreed that selfish is the mildest word for those who who just refuse or who are just afraid of needles. I know someone who ended up in hospital with heart problems after her vaccination and she is entitled to as much protection as the community can provide. These conversations are happening all over and are forcing us to think about community responsibility, about being a member of a huge community, about the nature of refusals and the fact that there are in fact consequences to negative co-operation.

Jo W (not verified) Mon, 06/09/2021 - 06:55

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh for goodness sake! This morning we have woken up to a thick fog. Talk about seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Where was summer?

Diane A McGuire (not verified) Mon, 06/09/2021 - 12:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes, I need the light, too. I don't get that seasonal depression thing, but for writing or reading, I gotta have it! So finally I buckled down and bought a (kind of pricey) full-spectrum lamp. It works wonders. No one likes it but me. If I have it on, family members walk by shading their eyes or making comments. One put on sunglasses to talk to me. (Yeah, I get it, haha but not funny.)

But here's wishing a ray of sunshine does find you ... eventually.

DA McGuire

Ed+DesCamp (not verified) Tue, 07/09/2021 - 05:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Helen - a topic of discussion here has been our feelings when a rabid anti vaxxer dies of Covid. I think this whole issue has made me more callous than ever before, as my first reaction is "Good; he deserved it." Not what I expect of myself but hard to overcome.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 07/09/2021 - 23:14

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ed, we are mandating a vaccination card for attending entertainment events. The idea is that only those who are as safe as possible should be in higher risk locations. There was an immediate rash of, "But what about those who can't be vaccinated?" They won't be able to attend. We're not limiting people's freedom, we're freeing those people who have done everything available. When you work your way through that you're even more likely to have little sympathy for those who refuse, especially since those who can't will have to wait till there are very few unvaccinated left. It is hard to overcome.

Wayne+Mook (not verified) Thu, 09/09/2021 - 17:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A SAD lamp does work, my wife uses one when it's murky and winter is coming (or as we say here, 'It's getting a bit chilly.' not the best strap line for Game of Throne.).

I don't blame people for being anti-vaxxers, the amount of lies that fly from all sides, and have done since time immemorial still flow thick and fast - i.e. the benefits/peril of wine in The Daily Mail. It's still sad when they die but I can't help but think of the Darwin Awards.


Ian Luck (not verified) Sat, 11/09/2021 - 14:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have been asked a couple of times to show my vaccination card, by door staff - I'll probably have to get it laminated.
I have heard, from different people, that the checks might extend to some shops, taxis, buses, trains, and entertainments. Excluding stupid anti-vaxxer sheep, does seem harsh. But strangely fair. Too stupid to see sense? Then you go nowhere, and get nothing.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sat, 11/09/2021 - 20:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ian, that sounds about right. We just downloaded our cards yesterday. Neither of us have smart phones so we saved it to our computer and printed it. If you have been to anything that gave you a plastic badge holder fold your printed card to fit the holder and presto it will store in your pocket.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 13/09/2021 - 00:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

We wondered about laminating the cards because some things we've had have told us not to laminate, but the card holder thing should certainly work.