Ye Gods, I love a good storm! We’ve been rain dancing for weeks and tonight over Norfolk, the atmosphere started to change. The humidity was claustrophobic and the cloud base rolled into banks of grey and white cumuli. The birds stopped singing and even the woodpigeons abandoned the birdbath. The air was charged with ions that made the hairs on my arms stand up. The lurcher crept behind the sofa and the cocker came out to stand next to me, ears drooped and a forlorn look in his sad eyes; as if to say “we’re doomed”!
As the sky darkened and the first flashes of sheet lightning strobed the horizon, I lifted the cork from one of my best reds and sat outside. Under my glass canopy I prepared to watch Thor unleash his mighty hammer and hit his anvil to shower the air with sparks. I wasn’t to be disappointed. The tame white flares heralding the storm front were merely the warm-up act. As the rain arrived … the first for nearly fifty days … the lightning sharpened it’s teeth. Bolt after jagged bolt blitzed the dark panorama as the rain turned from a spatter to a deluge. Yet, tonight, too short lived to rehydrate the parched landscape.
As I sit here now, the sky flashes with fire out across the North Norfolk coast and a trickle of rain continues. I hope it blesses us all night, for forlorn lawns. On today, Norfolk Day, the county looked like a yellow, parched savannah. Wildfires have tested the mettle of farmer and fireman. Tonight this rain will relieve the risk. Tomorrow I will be able to walk the wood, with gun and dog, on a damp carpet of premature leaf mulch.
I’m not in much of a mind to retire to bed yet. The sky is still flashing and that bottle of red isn’t finished. Sleep tight, folks. Enjoy your weekend, whatever you’re doing.
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, July 2018
The dark and bulbous cloud bank rolled toward the wood like a series of breaking waves. The gunmetal texture in high contrast to the fields of ripe, yellow rape. Above the brimstone crop, swallows and swifts flew sorties amongst the storm flies and aphids trapped in the pressure front of the moist tsunami. The deep, guttural roll of distant thunder drummed behind the cumuli. Rooks and jackdaws appeared, flying low over the blossom of the hawthorn hedges. Flocks of plundering pigeons fled the rape and drove toward the wood for cover. A fox trotted briskly into the covert to seek shelter. Black over white. Grey from yellow. Red into green. The mistle thrush, high in a beech heralding the incoming fury, now ceased its song. The blackbird and robin, choristers to the rain dance, fell silent too. A searing flash of light zig-zagged across the near-black canvas of the turbulent sky. Within seconds the awesome thrash of Odin’s drum erupted, the earth vibrating to his music. Then silence. For just seconds. Then the almost electrical crackle of the approaching curtain of torrential rain. I pull up my hood and huddle beneath the beech canopy as the storm closes around me. The relentless sweep of the cascade flattens swathes of rape and jettisons soil and stone in a series of ricochets. The sky is invisible now behind this blur of falling water but the flashes of light prevail and the muted sound of thunder barely outranks the racket of the rain. For fifteen minutes the deluge batters the wood and then, as suddenly as it started, it is over. I stay to enjoy the aftermath of the storm and watch the wood and field awaken. Behind the gentle percussion of the dripping leaf canopy, the little robin is the first to sing the ‘all-clear’. A melody full of rejoicing and relief. Other birdsong opens up and they have reason to sing. All around me the air starts to vibrate gently as the hum and buzz begins. The sunbeams falling through the wet canopy are shrouded in the prism of rainbow colours and start to fill with a whirling ballet of insect life, woken by the rain. The wren and the blackcap will feast well this evening. Above me in the canopy, a hidden canon of pigeon murmur begins. Out along the woods margin, the rabbit kits appear, lapping at the dripping rye grass. The stench of sodden mustard-rape is overtaken by the scent of wild garlic. The sky is clearing now and the evening will be calm and fruitful. I look South and can still see the distant flash of lightning as the grey swirl hovers above the City. No-one there will enjoy what I just witnessed, huddled in their offices, shops and homes. Me? I love to sit below the fury of a summer storm.
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, June 2015