It was Saint Swithin’s Day last Wednesday (15th July). I thought everyone knew that. But when I mentioned it to a group of younger people I was chatting with that morning, they looked at me with blank incomprehension.
St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare
Yes, apparently the weather we get on Saint Swithin’s day is the weather we can expect for the next forty days. Nobody really knows why this blameless 9th century Bishop of Winchester is responsible for his apparent hold over the climate in high summer. He seems to have been a nice chap. He held banquets to which he invited the poor, not the rich. He miraculously restored a basket of eggs that workmen has maliciously broken. He asked that on his death, he should be buried outside the cathedral, rather than inside, so that passers-by would tread on his grave, and so that it should be regularly watered from the skies. But in 971, he was moved to a new indoor shrine. And lo! The heavens opened. Perhaps this is where the legend originated.
But it has a measure of truth. Round about mid July, the jet stream settles into a pattern that holds good until round about the end of August.
Not this year. Saint Swithin’s day was pretty good: warm, fresh and sunny. Since then though, we’ve had cold days, hot days, or like this morning, woken up to driving rain. As this picture sort of shows.
Here are some pictures of a walk I took yesterday, a day on which Saint Swithin kept his promise made on Wednesday. It was a day of high summer, with the crops ripening fatly in the fields, the verges crammed with tall plants that often obscured the view, and a warm refreshing breeze in the air. That’s what Saint Swithin is supposed to deliver. He’s got some 36 days left to remember to keep his promise – every day.