For the past few weeks (months?), Edinburgh—in common with much of the rest of the UK—has felt like an aquatic city. I expect to see Kevin Costner wandering around Princes Street Gardens in a pair of flippers any time now. The air feels saturated with moisture, so that when we do have the occasional half-day or so of blessed respite the ground isn’t the only thing steaming as people come blinking into the light of the day, expressions of wonder on their unnaturally pale faces and an impulse to celebrate while the going is good to firm.
But for the most part, it is just day after day with selections from the great dictionary of rain: showers, drizzle, mizzle, sprinkles, deluges, downpours. Curiously, forecasters make distinctions in regard to downpours, rating them ‘light’, ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’. Surely a downpour is an absolute, making a light downpour something akin to being a little bit pregnant? Another rain word, which I heard for the first time on Radio 4 last week, is ‘plothering’. I am not entirely sure what plothering is: a combination of plodding and bothering? It reminds me of when my youngest daughter (who was 4 years old at the time), came in from playing on a rainy day announcing that she was ‘sodding wet’.
Despite my fears that we will soon all become so water-logged we will look like a nation of prunes, I had the pleasure of walking in the aftermath of a thunderstorm last week. The lurid light seeping under the bruised plum clouds tinted the world with a greenish-bronze cast while a cool breeze teased its way through the sticky warmth: now you feel it, now you don’t. The Water of Leith was high--choppy and brown and flecked with dirty, creamy foam. A swan stood on improbably green grass next to the river looking deeply affronted, as if it had forgotten that its feet had alternate uses to paddling. All the dogs in the neighbourhood, out for a quick post-inundation walk, looked about with cautious expressions, as if they knew something we didn’t. I expect they probably did.
Meanwhile, the local library closed for ‘emergency repairs’. I can’t help but picture soggy books floating between pillars and librarians wearing snorkels. But in the great British spirit of being ‘good in a crisis’, the library is bivouacked in temporary accommodation across the street and the mobile library was alongside, open for business on Saturday, all light and warm and welcoming, when I went to return my books.
I remarked to the driver what a nostalgic pleasure it was, having used the mobile library service in Skye for many years. He said to me that he too, had used the mobile library service all his life—but in Edinburgh. ‘You have no idea how many areas in the city didn’t have libraries and relied on the service...they still do. We go all over the place, get to know people—it’s like a party on here, some days,’ he said looking fondly at the neatly arranged shelves. ‘It’s the best job I’ve ever had,’ he continued. ‘The best job in the world. The wheels on this bus never stop going round.’
At this point a very skinny man with lanky unwashed hair and a hunted expression climbed on, looked around and asked if there were any books on growing things indoors, ‘under lights, like’.
The mobile bus driver and I looked at each other and I could see we were thinking the same thing. Come the deluge, I know which bus we’re going to be on.