Thursday, 13 February 2014


Yes, the weather - there's no escaping it, and it has indeed been frightful, even in the normally untroubled Home Counties, let alone the drowned West Country and the still-vexed North. But it's always as well to keep some perspective in these matters and remind ourselves that things could be, and have been, worse.
 Swift, writing on this day in 1740 to Mrs Whiteway, declares forlornly that  'I hope we have almost done with this this cursed weather, yet still my garden is all white...' He was writing after a lengthy period of storms and bitter cold, which was to last until the end of the month and all but destroy the potato crop. A prolonged drought followed, then the snow returned in May to ruin the crops of wheat and barley, leading to famine in the countryside and food riots in the cities. August storms, October blizzards and December frost and floods completed the disaster, and by the time decent weather returned, an eighth of the population - some 300,000 people - had perished. Swift himself entered his terrible old age, tormented by a succession of cruel physical and mental afflictions.
 But let us cheer ourselves up with a more good-humoured account of extreme weather, also written on this day, SS Cyril and Methodius' Eve, in 1870. The Rev Francis Kilvert reports a poor turn-out at church - and no wonder:
'The weather fearful, violent deadly E wind. Went to Bettws in the afternoon wrapped in two waistcoats, two coats, a muffler and a mackintosh, and was not at all too warm. Heard the Chapel bell pealing strongly for the second time since I have been here, and when I got to the Chapel my beard, moustache and whiskers were so stiff with ice that I could hardly open my mouth and my beard was frozen on my mackintosh. The baby was baptised in ice which was broken and swimming about in the Font.'
Ah, they were hardier souls than us in those days.


  1. Even more appropriately, Rev Kilvert reports on a conversation with his friend at Monnington: "Mr. James went with us to the Church which is light and pleasant
    and cheerful within and seemed well cared for. He told us that in the great flood of February 6, 1852, he and the present Sir Gilbert Lewis of Harpton (then Rector of Monnington) had punted in a flat-bottomed boat across the Court garden, in at the Church door, up the Nave and into the Chancel."

  2. Brilliant! Thanks for that, Mary.