Destinations Magazine

It's A London Thing No.73: Rain

By Lwblog @londonwalks

It's A London Thing No.73: RainIt’s a London Thing is our Wednesday series in which we turn the spotlight on a unique aspect of London – perhaps a curious shop, sometimes an eccentric restaurant, a hidden place, book or oddity. The subject matter will be different every week. The running theme, however, will remain constant: you have to come to London to enjoy it. It’s A London Thing.
Rain. It’s A London Thing.
Sorry. But it just is.
How can we spin this P.R disaster? My favourite is David’s rebuttal when presented with the perceived “Precipitation Problem”: London sees less annual rainfall than Rome.
Can’t argue with cold, hard statistics.
My own personal modus operandi when questioned about the alleged inclemency of the weather – keep in mind that I am from Scotland – is this:
“Rain? You think this is rain? YOU THINK THIS IS RAIN?! Where I come from rain can be sliced as it falls and spread on a sandwich.”
My suggestion is not merely to “lighten up”. It’s more than that. It’s a philosophical thing. A piece of old Irish wisdom can help. A pal of mine from The Mainland (as he calls the Emerald Isle) uses a grand old Irish phrase to rise above the weather. Gazing out at a wet landscape, he simply says, “It’s a fine, soft day.” And with this sooth he is superior to the weather. He wins.
A fine soft day. Quite so.
My countryman, comedian Billy Connolly, once observed that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. As London Walker and Daily Constitutionalist Cheryl from Austin, Texas breezily announced to me as she joined the Somewhere Else London walk just the other week: “This is my third new jacket since I arrived!”
Cheryl, to my knowledge, is still up on her hind legs despite a little rainfall on London Walks. It’s all in the attitude.
Similarly, another London Walker – coincidentally also from Texas, this time Dallas – who joined me on the Jack the Ripper walk just last night, informed me that his home town was basking in temperatures way up in the 30s (Celsius). Was he downcast? Hell no. He was laughing. Actually laughing out loud. 
I am constantly asked by timid types, “Do you do your walks in the rain?”
My reply is always, “Yes, of course we do.”
But what I really want to say is: “It’s ONLY RAIN. Samuel Pepys walked the streets of London during the plague. THE PLAGUE for the love of God.”
A bit of perspective is what’s required. Along with the Attitude and the Philosophy. And the Statistics. All far more useful tools than an umbrella.
During our recent spell of fine soft weather here in London, I have often been reminded of one of my favourite London films. Four Weddings And A Funeral is set broadly in a Hollywood-friendly Englandshire, but the capital shooting locations root it deeply in the fabric of our city – from the South Bank to St Bartholomew’s Church, Smithfield, FW&AF is a London Thing too.
It is the movie’s denouement, set in the immediate aftermath of the St Bart’s scene that has been haunting my reverie:
Exterior. A London Street.
It is raining. Not the kind of Hollywood rain that Gene Kelly would dance (and sing) through. This is RAIN. Raindrops the size of Brussels sprouts. Like King Lear on the blasted heath on his way to hitch a ride with Noah. Charles (Hugh Grant) pursues Carrie (Andie MacDowell) through the rain.
(*And if you haven’t seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, one question: Why?)
It rains. Charles professes his love. It rains. Carrie hers. It rains. They kiss. It rains.
Charles: “It’s raining.”
Carrie: “Is it? I hadn’t noticed.”
At which point the whole cinema audience heaves a big, goofy groan at the most hilariously corny moment in the history of British cinema.
Except London Walks guides don’t groan. To us, this is a moment of Cinéma Vérité. We applaud the accuracy of the observation that would put the post-war Italian Neorealist directors to shame.
Because that’s what London Walkers seem to say every day: is it raining? I hadn’t noticed.
Rain. It’s A London Thing. Everyone knows that.
But London Walkers who join us in the rain are the best London Thing of all.

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