Today, 15 July, is St. Swithin’s Day.
St. Swithin was a Saxon Bishop of Winchester. Legend has it that as Swithin lay on his deathbed, he asked to be buried out of doors, where he would be trodden and rained on. For nine years, his wishes were followed, but then, the monks of Winchester attempted to remove his remains to a splendid shrine inside the cathedral on 15 July 971.
Miracles were reported and there was a heavy rain storm that lasted for 40 days and 40 nights. This led to the old wives’ tale that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day (July 15th), it will rain for the next 40 days in succession, and a fine 15th July will be followed by 40 days of fine weather.
St. Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.
‘The Weather’ is very topical here in Great Britain. It’s an instant ice breaker, the weather, and yet no one ever seems satisfied with it. It’s either too hot, too cold, too rainy. too sunny. Rarely will you hear someone say it’s a beautiful day unless it is to bemoan the fact that it’s a beautiful day and they are forced to work inside. I knew I’d ‘arrived’ about 4 years ago when I began to sometimes complain long and loud about the weather in the UK. Although, for the most part, I found the warm, sunny climate in my native Los Angeles a bit monotonous and deep down I love the seasons and the changeability of British weather.
If you do want to complain about a wet summer, blame the over-enthusiastic monks of Winchester.
Thus far, we’ve had a quite damp British summer. However, not as bad as last summer with all of the flooding in the Midlands.
So, St. Swithin’s Day 2008 started off showery in the pre-dawn hours. The afternoon, however, was glorious. I had a friend round for a cup of tea and we went for a walk through the fields and down to the river. Dozens of butterflies fluttered through the warm air. We sat near the river for a while in a flowered meadow filled with scabious, red clover and Queen Anne’s lace. Discs of golden sunlight filtered through the canopy of hazel leaves onto the river surface, illuminating the slate stones on the riverbed and reflecting upwards onto the undersides of the leaves. The sky was robin’s egg blue with puffy white clouds. A perfect summer afternoon.
Then, by late afternoon, it became overcast and very cool.
Prediction for the next 40 days? A little bit of everything, but hopefully some more lovely, long stretches of glorious sun-filled British summer days.
Note to myself: Don’t leave the house without sunglasses and an umbrella.