In the April issue of the Tetbury Advertiser, I was talking about the weather (as you do…)
Although in the last twelve months the weather has been displaced as our favourite topic of conversation, I’m hoping it will regain that status soon. I’ve been fascinated by the weather from an early age, and not only because my father was a meteorologist in the Royal Navy.
For the Love of Ladybirds
What cemented my interest was borrowing The Ladybird Book of the Weather from our local public library when I was a child. I generally preferred fiction books, but the innate charm of the Ladybird format made non-fiction as appealing as any fairy tale. I couldn’t wait until I got home to read it, so I didn’t. Instead, I read as I walked, looking up at the sky every now and again in hope of spotting a cumulonimbus or a cirrostratus. I loved the language of clouds.
The Language of Weather
I thought the Beaufort Scale sounded rather grand too. It was the first time I’d come across that name, growing up in a London suburb rather than on a certain Duke’s stomping ground. (Note for readers beyond Tetbury: we are near neighbours of the Duke of Beaufort at his Badminton estate, home of the famous Badminton Horse Trials.) I longed to collect all the numbers in the Beaufort Scale, like stamps, from 0 for Calm (“smoke rises vertically”), demonstrated with a picture of factory chimneys, to 12 for hurricane (“disastrous results”), too awful to merit an illustration. The pictures only went up to Force 10, showing a house blowing over, even though, like the third little pig’s, it was built of brick.
More recently, Ladybird’s rendition of the Beaufort Scale inspired me to invent a new way of measuring the temperature. I call it the Butter Scale, and it’s more reliable than any thermometer.
The Butter Scale
0 = The butter will be warmer if you put it in the fridge.
1 = No need to refrigerate the butter, as it will be just as cold in my kitchen.
2 = A hot knife cuts the butter into straight-edged slices, but spreading it is out of the question.
3 = The butter knife lives up to the promise of its name, spreading the butter like, er, butter.
4 = The block of butter develops a sinister gleam.
5 = Send out for kippers – we have butter sauce.
I have only ever experienced Butter Scale 6, the very top of the scale, in my car in high summer, when a foil-wrapped pack of butter fell out of my shopping basket. Half an hour after arriving home, I returned to my car and found it on the front passenger seat. At least, I found the foil packet, which had kept its shape, but when I picked it up, it was completely empty. The butter had not only melted but dispersed into the upholstery, never to be seen again. Forever after, I thought of that car as the Buttermobile.
May April bring us the best spring weather for meeting our friends and relations out of doors, and a Butter scale of 3 for our Hot Cross buns. Happy Easter!
Speaking of the weather… my next book will include a pivotal scene in which Sophie and Hector, on a picnic on the Cotswold Way, engage in some cloudwatching. One of the key themes of Murder Lost and Found is the unreliability of appearances, and shifting shapes in the clouds triggers an important discussion between them.
Meanwhile here is what I saw in the sky above my parents’ garden in Bristol on Sunday – and, yes, it is actually a vapour trail left by a playful skywriter rather than a chance formation of clouds!
Murder Lost and Found will be launched on 23rd May in both ebook and paperback. Click the link below to preorder the ebook. The paperback will also be available from the launch date.