Sunday, 24 January 2016

Signs From Above

What is it about this world that you love? The sun? The snow? Cold, frosty mornings?

For me, it's the rain. I've loved the sound of rainfall ever since I was a child. There's something peaceful and relaxing about the sound of rain pattering on the roof. It helps me feel connected to our beautiful world.

Way before You Tube and MP3 downloads, I had to wait until it was raining to get my fix. I'd scour the weather reports, waiting for that perfect summer's day so I could sit beneath my tree. I much preferred the summer storms. There would be leaves on the tree and it would be warmer. I could sit on the grass with no shoes on and feel the stray raindrops that wriggled between the branches on my toes.

As I moved around the country so I had to find new places to sit and watch the world go by during those rainy moments. Sometimes it was the garden of a surgery just along the road from where I lived. Or the trees that surrounded the market square. There was the gazebo in the back garden or the conservatory attached to the house. I needed to find places where I could sit and switch my brain off.

With the internet, we're now able to find relaxation videos of every kind. Many of them run for several hours.

Two years ago, I went to Las Vegas. One of the things I wanted to witness was one of their incredible storms. Unfortunately, I was going in April and their storm season tends to be between December and March.

During my stay, we took a trip to LA. We drove between the two cities and, on our return to Vegas, something remarkable happened. As we were unloading the car, several spots of rain landed on my back. The friends I was travelling with also felt it yet there was only a little haze in the sky. It was a beautiful moment and one I'll treasure forever.

In August 2015, I travelled to London to do research for a book I'm writing. One of the central themes of this story is the British weather. The protagonist enjoys nothing more than sitting beneath the awning of his shop and watching the summer storms pass overhead. They're the scenes I've enjoyed writing the most, watching as the rain becomes a metaphor for the changing of this character's life.

Watching the rain from Kensington Gardens

I stayed in the exact area of London that my character lives in. I wanted to know what he'd see, hear, and smell on a daily basis. I wanted to know where he'd shop and who he'd bump in to. While the likes of Google Street View is great for research, it's nothing compared to actually being there.

I checked the weather forecast before I went as the British weather can be extremely indecisive. Rain had been forecast for one of the two days I was there and I couldn't have been happier. I excitedly packed an umbrella and waterproofs and prepared to spend a long time sitting in Hyde Park and watching the weather.

And rain it did. The day was the perfect replica of the ones I remember from my childhood; warm and sunny before the sky became overcast and the heavens opened. I spent several hours doing something I hadn't done for many years; sitting beneath a tree and listening to the rain. As it abated, I returned to my hotel, opened the sash window and waited for it to begin again.

Tea - check
Notebook - check
Rain - check

My hotel backed onto a small park and I was blessed with a room that not only overlooked this green space but that also had a small balcony. As the storm returned for round two, I stepped out on to the balcony and nestled myself beneath the protective cover of the eaves. Listening to London in the midst of a rainstorm, with its never-ending traffic and people talking, was beautiful. For me, it was peaceful, relaxing and inspiring. I came home feeling cleansed and ready to finish the story I'd started so many months before.

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