It’s often said that Britain doesn’t have a climate, just weather, and the last few months have been perfect examples of that. February and March were hot and dry, while April and now May have been miserably cold and wet. Today though, the clouds have parted, the sun is out and the swifts are soaring high in sky that I had almost forgotten could be that colour. Bees are buzzing and I’ve even seen a couple of butterflies. I’ve been out all day making the most of it because it’s not going to last.
Those of you reading this outside the UK are probably rolling your eyes and wondering what all the fuss is about. We don’t have the extremes of weather here that other parts of the world have, but British gardeners have to struggle with unpredictable conditions that can vary massively from one year to the next. A hard winter like the one before last is a stark reminder that we are on the same latitude as Newfoundland and that Moscow is further south than Edinburgh. It’s only the warming effect of the Gulf Stream that prevents us from sharing their winter weather.
Our mild, maritime climate is what’s brought numerous waves of settlers to Britain; Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans have all added to the cultural mix over the centuries, making a mockery of the claims to racial purity by certain far right groups that I won’t dignify by naming here. It’s not just the weather that we endure now that affects the British character, it’s the weather we’ve had for generations that made our multifarious ancestors settle here in the first place.