Meteorological Musings

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I really, really, really must learn to stop tempting fate. The very moment that I* clicked “Go” on last week’s entry outlining the benefits of the Gulf Stream to our enviably situated chunk of land – specifically the part where the warm air sweeps up from the Caribbean and gives jack frost a well deserved kick in the groin, preventing him from zapping the vines with his nefarious icy attentions – the weather performed a naughty little volte-face and started ushering huge amounts of cold air towards the south of England from points north.

*I feel that it is politic at this point to point out that, in spite of our efforts to crush the French wine trade beneath the heel of our superior English produce, this blog is not affiliated to the United Kingdom Independence Party, nor do we believe that even our naughtiest indiscretions (real or imagined) can have even the slightest effect on the weather.

It was all going so sweetly until about Tuesday. The weather remained resolutely drizzly all day and made absolutely sure that the mercury never made it anywhere near the double figures that we had been enjoying. Which in turn ensured that there was no latent heat kicking about to keep the vines warm over night. Then, as the sky faded to black, the wind picked up and blew the pesky clouds away, as we were about to retire we were treated the sort of breathtaking display of stars that one can only enjoy from a field in the middle of nowhere, far from the nearest street lights. And miles and miles from the clouds that had been parked over head all day and might actually have been some use insulating the good vines of Devon over night.

And that is a fairly convoluted way of telling you that Tuesday night was a little dicey. One can always tell when the weather is going to have one or both of us scampering around checking vines at the crack of dawn by the amount of daylight coming through the curtains. When it is particularly crisp and white outside, it is appreciably lighter, and let’s be honest, colder, in our bedroom, which acts as an excellent alarm clock. Even better than the crashes from the kitchen that accompany our youngest fighting his way to the bananas each morning. Drawing back the curtain indicated that it was a little frosty out there, but this veteran of many sleepless nights staring at a weather station was able to determine that we had been the victim of the puniest of grass frosts that lacked the power to zap our elevated vines. Or even the new ones, as it happens.

Panic over? Maybe. Although I am currently stood in front of a window watching pea sized hail stones bouncing down the driveway and am crossing my fingers that this new threat isn’t going to make a mess of our new shoots/swollen buds. I’ll let you know about that next week, because I’m certainly not terribly keen to rush out this instant to check.

If it isn’t immediately obvious what hail can do to the vines, consider the force that they hit the ground with and their ability to remain in tact during this ordeal. When they are unaccompanied by rain – which lubricates them, causing them to slide off whatever they hit – they can deal a fair amount of damage to tender young shoots. Indeed, if they are sufficiently large, they can take chunks out of the infrastructure of the vines; this happened in part of Champagne a couple of years ago and smashed an entire year’s crop to pieces. Which, even given my comments above about French wine, is a crying shame; we have spent many happy hours on the receiving end of their output.

News that is both great and amazing has reached us from the always accurate Met Office! Get out and buy a barbecue and build (dig?) a swimming pool with absolutely no heating, for drier and hotter summers are on the way on account of the previously dastardly and nefarious, but now incredible and super, climate change. After finishing choking on the collective Château Huxbear cornflakes on hearing this on the morning news programme, it was cause for great celebration all around. We immediately started planning what we were going to do with the millions that we would doubtless earn, having snatched all of the billionaire customers from the better known Burgundian wine producers when their vines wilted in the oppressive, climate shifted heat.

But what’s this? A caveat? Yep. We had cleverly grasped the headlines and none of the content from the news story with all of the ham fisted ineptitude of a tabloid news editor. On closer inspection (specifically a grilling of the weather boffin-in-chief by one of the resident BBC pit bulls), this is by no means certain. I now understand that it is likely that there will be less rain and more heat in the summer, but that might not happen. And it is going to rain a lot more in winter, unless it doesn’t. But some weather will definitely happen at all times during the year. I’m pretty sure that they are spending their budget on whisky and cigars and having their scripts written by Mystic Meg at the Met Office now, so it’s probably safest to ignore the last couple of paragraphs.

Yikes! I’m supposed to be on holiday and haven’t yet had the opportunity to tell you about the generator, so I’ll save it for next week. In the meantime, rest assured that we have jettisoned our previous and simplistic plan and have seized on a convoluted and reckless one; but at least I shall know how to make a generator at the end of it. And that is the melodious thunk of Lucy’s hand hitting her forehead as I dive all over the path of most resistance with not a thought for common sense.

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