Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Rain Stops Play

Although I wish for higher numbers in class, I have a lot of sympathy for those who take one look outside on these dark, cold nights and decide that snuggling on the sofa with a mug of tea wins against going out to class. The other night while I was changing to go out to teach, I had to fight down the urge to change into my pyjamas and just go to bed with a mug of cocoa. It was windy, pouring with rain, dark and dismal, and it was only the thought of my dancers having to brave the same for their love of the dance that got me going.

I rarely cancel a class, or skip one myself, but sometimes the weather is just too much. Yesterday was a case in point.  Ready to go, I stood at the back door and watched soaking wet birds in the garden. The chaffinches and blue tits were irritable and squabbled constantly. The robin and blackbird were finding some tasty bits from the compost heap, and a couple of song thrushes were pecking at fallen crab apples. I meant to make crab apple, ginger and mint jelly this year, as the fruit set on the apple was very heavy. But it's been raining for weeks, turning the little golden apples from under-ripe to splitting and mouldy within a week.

I set off for yoga class at 4.00 pm, and quickly realised that the deluge I skipped through to shut the hens away and dive into the car had evidently been going on for hours. Ah, the joys of living in the country! There are a few miles of back roads in every direction before I can get onto a main (A-class) road. The roads were starting to resemble a series of streams and lakes. I had to turn back on my first choice of route, because although I have a Fiat Panda 4x4, it's still quite a small car in comparison to a Land Rover, and I met a flooded section I wasn't confident about; I knew the road dipped, but how deep was the water?

After 25 minutes' driving, I was still only 4 miles from home. The water on the roads was getting deeper, it was getting dark, if I did manage to get to class I would be quite late, and I knew the heavy rain was forecast to continue through the night. In the dark, with floods across the roads getting deeper and difficult to see, the return journey would have been a bit stressful, to say the least, even in my relaxed, post-yoga state!

I sent a text to explain and apologise for absence, then turned around and headed home. Already, there was more water across the roads, as it fountained up out of drains, poured off the land through field gates and overflowed the ditches, washing leaves, wood and stones out onto the roads.

Once home, I looked up the weather forecast, mug of tea in hand. The yellow weather warning for heavy rain was in place until 9.00 am this morning. Last winter was extremely wet, so I hope we're not in for a repeat. This is from the Met Office summary:

'Winter 201[3-201]4 was an exceptionally stormy season, with at least 12 major winter storms affecting the UK in two spells from mid-December to early January, and again from late January to mid-February. When considered overall, this was the stormiest period of weather experienced by the UK for at least 20 years. An analysis of pressure fields by the University of East Anglia suggests this winter has had more very severe gale days than any other winter season in a series from 1871.
The persistent heavy rainfall through the season resulted in this being the wettest winter for the UK, England, Wales and Scotland, and the equal-wettest winter for Northern Ireland in series from 1910. It was also the wettest winter in the long running England and Wales Precipitation series from 1766. There were more days of rain during the winter than any other in a series from 1961.'

Residents in the Somerset Levels, which were under water for weeks, may feel that this is an example of British Understatement.

The horrible weather has reminded me that I need to take a look at my severe weather policy for class cancellations. Out here in the Wild West of Wales, even a yellow warning can make road conditions quite dangerous.  I asked to cancel an adult education class back in February when there was a yellow warning, but with a forecast for wind speeds increasing to hurricane force later, and was met with a certain amount of scorn and derision. 'It's only a bit windy. You won't get paid, you know, and you'll have to make the class up at some other time.'  By the time the class members had been contacted, the severe weather warning had changed to amber, and the centre was closed because tiles were beginning to fall off the roof and there was a risk of being hit by flying debris. Only a bit windy.

Needless to say, if an amber weather warning is in force, the class will be cancelled. I don't want anyone to risk driving to class in severe weather like that. In those circumstances, snuggling down on the sofa with a mug of tea is fully justified!

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