I forgive you Manchester for your drizzle. It’s what I want now, more than anything.
I left you and the North-west over 20 years ago, I still call you “home”, I still support ‘the’ team, I still hanker after chip-shop chips and gravy, I still say “hiya” (pronounced eye-err) but I know I will never move back.
Until I moved away or travelled to other countries I had no idea that “normal” rain meant it rained for a short while and then stopped. I remember thinking ‘oh, it’s stopped’, rapidly followed by ‘great!’. Growing up in the north-west meant days, and I mean days of drizzle. The kind of rain that literally just goes on and on. That kind of rain that soaks you to the skin in minutes. It creates a dankness of it’s own. The skies are a dull grey. And drizzle creates, or maybe comes with, a stillness.
Before I ‘migrated’ south to London and then to the south coast I always carried an umbrella, forever prepared to be soaked. I gave up on umbrellas when I moved to the coast – where’s the fun of constantly battling with the wind and rain, and your umbrella blowing inside out, and while you battled vainly to right-it, you would end up soaked? I changed tactics and started wearing waterproof coats, hats with a peak to cover my glasses, there is no fun in not being able to see where you are going if you can’t see for the rain drops on your glasses.
Here in Hastings, April has seen a fifth of it’s normal rainfall and 6 degrees warmer than average temperatures for the month. And May is not proving to be any different. Huge cracks in the paths emerged and deepened in April. Moving has meant that I’ve had to learn to garden with drier warmer weather, and along with this I’ve learnt new tactics; about mulching to keep the moisture in the ground and around the crops. I now mulch with anything I can get hold of – grass clippings, leaf mold, straw, manure, shredded paper, anything to create a barrier. I have to thank my good gardening practice of regularly mulching and manuring as it means the ground, with a bit of effort, is still diggable and below the top inch still has some moisture.
If the lack of rain continues, the ground will only get drier, and any rain we have the wind quickly evaporates it. I’ve already lost a batch of dwarf peas (Meteor, Piccolo Provenzale, D’Annonay) to lack of rain (and my watering), I don’t water potato crops as time is too short, but I know that with a dry Spring, the yields will be low. I’ve nearly emptied the water-butt at home, a previously unheard of event. I’m going to have to mulch, mulch, mulch to maintain the crops I want – courgettes, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes – all thirsty plants. On the upside if we have a dry hot summer the chillies should flourish and be hot as hell, the Red Hot Thai, already flowering, should live up to it’s name.
So what I fancy right now, is a day or two of low grey cloud and good old drizzle to give the ground and the plants a thoroughly good soaking. And to remind me what it feels like….