Tuesday 20 August 2002

Fearing the weather

When I was younger I hated the nights when the winds came. The autumn gales or spring blows, laden with rain and sound, left me lying in bed full of fear that the house would be tipped over by the prancing fingers of wind. Underneath the duvet, submerged so that my head was warmed by my own breath I listened as the air rushed and pushed through the trees outside, waiting for the smash as the windows burst, the rapid zip of tiles peeling from the roof, the crack and tear of falling tree. It seemed impossible to last the night when there was so much anger and fury directed at the house and the trees that danced outside.

When the Great Storm of '87 ripped through the night (how satisfying to have survived a capitalised Event), axing beeches and transforming my woodland play areas, the next morning felt like the first day of a post apocalyptic world. The power flickered on and off, the TV news bulletins came from a makeshift studio in London and were rendered in humble tones appropriately reverent to the meterological power the nation had seen. It all proved that my fears were founded, the wind was a malevolent entity to respect.

I've shrugged many of my childish fears now, but this is harder to shift. By day I can master the wind, I can stride mountain ridges with my body lent into the air's lifting power and be filled with a urge to shout it down, to joyfully sing as the words are torn from my mouth, my body energised. But at night it comes back for me, searching for my sleep-enhanced imagination and sending me back down to meet the younger cowering self that lives within, abraiding and eroding my self confidence.

During a stormy January night in Snowdonia this year my febrile, night-gripped fear had to be soothed by hugs and soft words as the walls of the tent bowed to the floor in deference to the ferocious waves of air that crashed over the campsite. By the time daylight eventually rolled round again the campsite had become just another windy Welsh field and I felt foolish and ashamed.

(Small aside, until you've been in one in these conditions you cannot appreciate just how damned good Terra Nova tents are at putting up with this sort of abuse. Worth every penny).

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