It emerged over the hill, surprising in its intensity and blackness on this, the first day of weather for what feels like for ever. This of course is wrong. Quite a lot of August was stormy in a summery kind of way, even a bit chilly and horrible and suitable for school holidays kind of weather. But today is different. This prefigures real winter with winds that have been strong enough to knock over those long-lasting sweet peas in front of the house. This is a taking-away of summer, a summer that has felt long and glorious even if that is something of an exaggeration. What has been unusual has been the recently-closed month of September. September saw the lowest rainfall on record, and Slapton was the second driest of anywhere in the UK with less than 2mm of rain for the entire month. And it was warm. And still. So this violent eruption feels on one level like an intrusion, and yet somehow welcome, as if those dark evenings are now justified and we are happy to light a fire and draw the curtains.
We were sitting by the sea along the Slapton Line, with N deciding whether or not a swim was inevitable or whether it should be resisted. We had already negotiated fat raindrops in a dash to the car, and now the question of whether to swim or whether not to swim was settled by a vigorous increase in rain and wind. This was a foreshadowing of the squall coming over the hill behind us, and as we turned out into the road, we could see a wall of water emerging over the hill and then over the Ley. Watching this kind of squall out at sea is relatively common now that we’re in that season, but to see it coming over land, the bottom of the cloud and it’s heavy output touching the land almost seamlessly was an extraordinary sight. The relative quiet of the Ley turned invisible, as if reaching up to touch the cloud sweeping across it. As it passed over us, it left behind blue skies and no more rain, but we watched it from this dry vantage sweep out further down the coast and then out into the bay, somewhere around Strete Gate. Just how many knots of travel there were is hard to say, but this storm line was moving visible, palpably, exuberantly as if enjoying its first expression of a long season to come.
The roads back to the house were flooded in places, standing water ruffled by the still-stiff winds reaching from one side of the road almost to the other in many places. The roads have never recovered from the beating they received last winter and the beating that council budgets received at the hands of this most vicious of “governments”, so these floods this early in the season are a recipe for difficult times ahead, times when we will feel trapped for the simple reason that the roads around us, in whatever direction we turn from the drive, will be difficult to pass.
As I look out of the window now, probably no more than thirty minutes later, although the wind is still blowing the sky is benign, the sun is shining, the light bright and cheerful and clear. Beckoning.