Guilty as charged


(Mark Sampson) #1

This July weather has been testing my culpability. I don’t know what’s going on in other necks of the wood, as I don’t watch the weather forecast on telly and have little faith in the internet’s chaine méteo, which seems to change its mind from one day to the next, but here we’ve had leaden skies, persistent showers and unseasonable chill in the Lot for a couple of weeks.

It doesn’t worry me too much: in fact, it’s a salutary reminder of what we’re missing back home. But when I meet and greet holidaymakers – who have generally paid a small fortune to get and then stay here – my middle-class English upbringing rears its apologetic head once more. I feel personally responsible for the bad weather and generally as guilty as O.J. Si… (no, don’t say it; don’t court controversy).

My Canadian friend Bret always chides me, ‘What is it about you English? Jeez, you’re so polite; you’re always apologising.’ Coming from the New World, he doesn’t understand the burden of the Old World that has kept my shoulders round all these years. It’s true, though. Sometimes I feel like I have to apologise for my very existence.

This very morning I went up to one of the two holiday homes that blip away on the periphery of my personal radar screen. ‘I’m so sorry about this weather,’ I started off. ‘I’ve never known a July like it. June can be a bit dodgy, but usually you’re guaranteed good weather in July and August’.

My luck was in. The holidaymakers in question – a charming family from Newcastle (Tyne & Wear, as opposed to County Down) – were very philosophical about it. I guess you would be if you choose to live in Newcastle (they met at university and decided to stay), where the weather is exactly like this for most of the British Summer, those five giddy weeks that span the tail-end of July and the August Bank Holiday, whereupon winter sets in again.

They explained that the upside of a fortnight’s lousy weather is that you don’t spend each day lounging with a good book by the side of the pool, but you get out and explore the area. And we chatted about places of interest that they had visited, like the Gouffre de Padirac: a great big hole in the ground where you can climb down an iron staircase into the centre of the earth and take a boat trip to explore the caverns and marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites at the earth’s core.

So I was lucky. I came away from our farewell meeting feeling reasonably good about myself and sufficiently reassured to think that they might have had a fairly good holiday after all. It doesn’t always go this well. Sometimes holidaymakers who feel they have been short-changed by the weather can act like sharks that scent blood. They’ll drop the kind of little barbed asides into the conversation that make you squirm with the conviction that you are personally responsible for their ill fortune.

Of course, it’s totally illogical. Of course you’re not to blame. Yet you go away feeling the weight of all those pounds sterling they have spent on having a lousy time. They’ve worked hard and saved for 50 weeks or so in the year in order to spend a fortnight in France experiencing the kind of weather they’d have had if they’d stayed put. ‘Next time, pal, I’m off to the Costa del Sol, where the plastic billows in the wind and the scorching sun sears your unaccustomed skin and where you can’t stop me having a good time.’

The trouble is – and I’ve said it before at the Brighton Conference – people just get the wrong end of the stick about France. We do get more sun and generally better weather than they do on the other side of the English Channel, but essentially it tends to mirror roughly what’s happening in the UK. If there’s a depression sweeping in off the Atlantic, then it’s going to depress us too, and if there’s a trough of high pressure settling in over the Low Countries, then we’ll be in for some settled weather, too – only it’ll be hotter in summer and colder in winter than it is in, say, Harwich. The only virtual guarantee of good weather comes on the Mediterranean coast ('warm wet winters with westerly winds and hot dry summers,' as we were taught).

A spell of unseasonable weather doesn’t worry me at all. We need the rain and it’ll help the flora and fauna. Besides, as a full-time resident, I know that we’ll run into some pretty good weather again soon enough. That shows how much I’ve changed after 16 years of living in France. Weather-wise, as Jack Lemmon might have said in The Apartment, I am now quietly confident. We moved here from Sheffield, where there were times when you wondered whether you would ever see the sun again.

So maybe the guilt derives from residual empathy. Since I still remember how grim the weather can be in certain parts of the Old Country, I still remember how much hope one invests in a summer holiday. So I know all about that feeling of being cheated by the elements. And I suppose that if there’s someone daft enough to assume a degree of responsibility, well why not offload some frustration on said eejit?


(Mark Sampson) #2

So far, so good this week Suzanne. I’m not anticipating any apologies to the next lot of holidaymakers. But there are cars everywhere suddenly. The Holiday Season is upon us.


(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #3

I for one am glad to hear that the weather in France is not much better than in the UK at the moment, makes the days of us being here go by easier somehow. (Sorry!) My French neighbour takes a delight in informing me how pas terrible it currently is down South and reassures me that I’m not missing anything. That’s great but I am now hoping it will change for next Friday as I’m going home again and of course I EXPECT sunshine and warm hazy days with the Cicadas humming…not downpours and grey skies. He’s praying to the Sun God.


(Rebekah Brady) #4

I did! but only for a very short time- as I was cooking food for crowds aka our extended family and friends here on their hols. Almost as soon as it went on the house was unbearably hot and the sun started shining:) It’s still more like late spring, but I am happy with less rain and warmer temps - I should be shot for saying that I hate rain but I just can’t help myself, I was brought up in Wales and it rained from the time I was born right until I finally left in '89 :wink:


(Mark Sampson) #5

I used to live in the Limousin, Jeanette, and have to say that it is significantly dryer here in the Lot - but that’s not always a good thing, of course. The Limousin is very beautiful, but I wonder what new arrivals must think when they land from somewhere like East Anglie, where I guess it doesn’t rain so much. The Correze is called the ‘pays vert’, as you probably know, but we never put two and two together. Any road up, the sun’s shining today, so maybe Rebekah didn’t have to put her Aga on after all.


(jeanette howard) #6

Here in the limousin has done nothing but pour and trust me I mean pour for the last two weeks Up until today I was seriously thinking of growing fins and flippers.
We too have a gite and last guests picked the worst two weeks and Like yourself we have done nothing but apologise .
Now sun is fighting to peep through but has not got any warmer and only 18C


(Rebekah Brady) #7

Reading this had just made me realise that it’s not a crime to admit that the weather is in fact shite (at the moment) and I’m going to turn the aga back on until it changes :slight_smile: