28 June 2013

Effects

Bloggers come and bloggers go - rather like the seasons. Some stalwarts stand like stone monoliths - Father Brague, Auntie Helen at Helsie's Happenings for example - while others leave the stage - Arctic Fox, Elizabeth and gradually, sadly, maybe even Daphne and Katherine? Recently, another fellow from our former colonies has leaked into my blog - a certain David Oliver and this Yankee chappie has thrown down a stars and stripes patterned gauntlet for your humble correspondent to pick up.

Essentially, David has challenged me to "Do a post about the effects of snow, clouds and frost on our psyche". Not to write a post, craft or create one you will notice - but to "do" one. Hmmph! Anyway, here goes. Though it would be possible to research this topic, sifting through academic observations of the meteorological, psychological or literary variety, I am going to address it simply from personal experience. My own thoughts - nobody else's.

Of course, I am Yorkshire born and bred and this is where I have lived over 90% of my life. Like the rest of England, we enjoy a climate that is temperate and with our maritime eastern Atlantic location our weather is often moody and unpredictable. It's why the weather is one of our nation's favourite topics of conversation for we never know what we are going to get from one day to the next. It is my contention that living with this weather lottery itself impacts on our people's psyche. In life - as in the weather - there are few certainties.

Turning to snow, clouds and frost. Well, I am not sure that they should be grouped together or dealt with separately but I will go for the latter.

Let me think about clouds first. As I look out of my window right now - it is dry but there's a thick blanket of white cloud above us. It doesn't threaten rain. It just seems to sit there and I know that if I could rise up through it like an aeroplane, there would be blue skies and gorgeous sunshine above. Instead, this thick white cloud filters the light and drains much of the colour from our streets and gardens. It is a bit depressing. It means you're less likely to work in the garden, to walk the hills or note the beauty of nature. It seems to suck something out of existence - that paleness, that empty feeling. It transfers itself to the human psyche and reduces the possibility of laughter. But days like these make us appreciate our blue sky sunny days all the more. In Spain or Arizona they seem to squander them: oh, another morning - more sun, more blue sky - what's the big deal? Here in the People's Republic of Yorkshire, we relish those lovely days and actively try make the most of them - if we are not at work.

In temperate countries, we have distinct seasons that you can read like a calendar. They mark the natural passing of time. Closer to The Equator, seasonal distinctions are much less clear. This was something I noticed in Thailand. Days are pretty much the same length the whole year round there and it will always be warm in spite of what they say about their  "cool" and "hot" seasons. The difference appears marginal at best.

A hard frost sharpens one's senses and cleanses the earth. It is good for walking - paths like concrete - and icy patterns on windows. When winter sunshine bursts through and you are walking in frosty hills it feels good to be alive - invigorating - as good as soaking up summer sun on a beach by the Mediterranean. But frost means cold and that coldness seeps into houses and bones. You pull out extra bedding and coats. You turn up the heating and switch on the television. The cold can drive you indoors and make you hide from your friends and neighbours. Winter can be a depressing time as you await the first signs of springtime and the lengthening of days. Just around the corner. We anticipate.

And so to snow. When snow comes in the dead of night - billions of flakes falling in the street-light glow, gathering, millimetre upon millimetre, blanketing the earth - it looks so lovely and creates a muffled quietness. Somehow it covers faults - disguises them - and, like today's white cloud blanket, seems to drain colour away so that what you see is almost a black and white negative. I love the sound of fresh snow - squeaking, crunching underfoot. It is beautiful and different.  And there's an element of danger too - you could slip. You could fall down. It gets the heart pumping.

But when snow keeps hanging about - turning to slush or dirty snow that is pocketed in hollows - it is like a visitor who has overstayed his welcome. You just want rid of it and like the clouds and the frost, snow can also be depressing.

I firmly believe that the human psyche has deep-seated connections with Nature in all of her guises - and that includes the weather. S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder is really real. We all feel it in spite of Yorkshire's magnificence but some feel it more than others. Cloud and frost and snow do not necessarily impact negatively upon the human psyche. They can bring benefits too. And when any of these three arrive you know that they will not remain forever - there will be blue sky days ahead. The sun will shine. The colours of The Earth will be apparent once again. It's about rhythms and patience and it's about the stimulation that unpredictability weaves into our lives. 

In their offices, shopping centres, electric homes, factories or cars there may be some people who claim they are able to disregard Nature - carrying on in spite of what's outside. But this way of living - technology, instant light and heating, supermarket shopping and motor transport has only been with us for the blink of an eye. Looking back through the enormous span of human history - some 200,000 years - our forebears simply could not turn their backs on Nature. Their lives and prospects of survival were intimately entwined with it. They had to read it. They had to know it. Not for them PVC windows, social services or "The X Factor", no ready meals or inoculations. No, their psychologies were so connected with the days they lived in that it would have been unthinkable to suggest otherwise. And if we strip away our masking tape, our veneers you will find that underneath it all we are still the same. Well, that's what I think - and if you got this far - thank you for reading.

7 comments:

  1. Why Mr. Pudding, you do do very well! I knew you would. There was simply no need, if indeed I even could, define the steps - create, craft, and post.

    While our perceptions of weather phonomena may differ somewhat I found yours to be extremely descriptive and insightful of how this stuff affects you. Yes I realize we Americans, err former colonists, are often lazy and use "do" and "stuff" when other words would be more accurate.

    I am particularly impressed with two aspects of your article. First, all you said about S.A.D. Just tonight my nephew and I were discussing the major problem with living in Portland, Oregon. And that is the prevalence of S.A.D. sufferers because of the lack of sunshine. The second engrossing part was the number of years our ancestors were not only affected mentally by the weather but also physically. Actually, I imagine that, they lived or died by its whims.

    I believe it is your contention that is why weather affects us the way it does. Perhaps you are right. I agree whole heartedly that if you strip away our veneers, we are the same as those early ancestors struggling to stay dry and warm. I know without my veneers, which we call clothing, I feel very vulnerable.

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  2. Yes, it's a moody climate for moody folk. If I lived in Yorkshire, I'm sure I'd be a grumpy old sod.

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  3. Very interesting post YP. Coming from a warm climate where I greet summer with dismay I often yearn for life in a colder climate but whether I would really enjoy it with it's dim light and wet slushy days is another thing. I love the cold when it's crisp and bright and sunny but if I also have to endure wet and dull... well I don't know.
    However if you are looking for weather that's just about perfect then Queensland in Winter is the place to be. Cold nights , cool days and sunshine that's warm on your back as you sit in the sun without raising a sweat. Ahhhh ! No SAD here.

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  4. DAVID OLIVER Hee! Hee! Early on in the piece I deliberately prodded you with a stick and you snarled...well, just a little. "I feel very vulnerable" - underneath it all, I think we all do.
    GORILLA BANANAS Welcome back you hairy beast! To my knowledge there are no gorillas living in Yorkshire apart from an old silverback at "Flamingoland" near Malton. He needs a grumpy old chum.
    HELEN Are you now employed by the Queensland Tourism Authority? Do you and Tony do bed and breakfast? Plump up the pillows dear - and an extra sausage for me!

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  5. I didn't leave the stage; I merely moved to a different theatre. I always loved this photograph - I'm glad you posted it again.

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  6. Sir YP, I have to back up Helsie as ambassador for Winter in Queensland ~ perfect. I wouldn't know what to do with that snow stuff!

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  7. Great piece /opinions /stuff you've crafted there Mr Pud. Couldn't agree more (well, maybe ...), as I sit here looking at another 28 degree blue sky outside and deciding to stay in and do some internet surfing:)
    Another post could be on how miserable, sorry, interesting weather affects the artistic creativity of a nation .... just how many fantastic legends have come out of the dark winters "enjoyed" by norther Europeans. Could a Mediterranean writer have come up with Beowulf or even the Hobbit?
    What about all this pop/rock music leaving England's shores? Would the Beatles have spent so many hours rehearsing , playing, and perfecting their art if the sun had been shining?
    Catalan art is COLOUR - look at Gaudi - influenced by the sun? But then everyone drives a grey car and wears black!

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