Sometimes though I have no clue where the theme for discussion will lead, I just know that it will be wonderful.  This month the group’s suggestion of Rainy Days was one of those occasions.  

We found that rain has so many associations that the conversation became an ever-deepening reservoir of ideas as they poured down from every direction. (Sorry, couldn’t help it).   

We talked about our personal and cultural relationship to rain, how it is a carrier of meaning and history, the literary and musical symbolism of it and we even created a playlist for you to share some of that richness of meaning

Read on to see some of the variety of thoughts that emerged….

Jean Thompson

Rain: Friend or Foe?

A friend when it waters crops and gardens and replenishes the reservoirs that supply us with the water we need for everyday life. A friend when it freshens us up as well as the environment.

If we don’t have enough of it, then we have droughts. Crops wither, gardens shrivel and we have to ration the water we use. How must it be for countries that haven’t had rain for years, not just a few weeks? We watch the programmes, we know how much rain is needed to be a friend to that land. A rainy day is prayed for, and welcomed with celebrations when it comes.

But what about when it is a foe? When we have too much of it. When floods wash away lands, houses, livelihoods and lives. When time after time, people are washed out of their homes but can’t move away so have to live with the permanent feeling of dread. Not just clean rain water but all the sludge and debris it brings with it. How would we regard a rainy day then? Not with joy, that’s for sure.

How do we enjoy a rainy day then on a more personal level? The smell of a shower of rain after a prolonged hot spell. The freshness, the cleanness of the air and the ground after it. The perkiness of flowers after a well-deserved and long awaited drink.

The sight of children who universally love to splash in rain puddles. Either with wellies or without them. Who has taught children the delight of doing that? How have children through generations compared notes that this is a wonderful thing to do?

Photo by Atahan Demir on

And what about all the songs that over many years make reference to rain? All the paintings, all the poems. Joyful or melancholic, there’s no getting away from the importance of rain, this natural occurrence.

Mark Taylor

Sometimes the rain falls so heavily it feels almost magical, the way it would if you had never seen rain before. As a boy I would sit in the armchair by the living room windows and wonder if there would be a flood. Floods then meant not mess and destruction and danger, but adventure and excitement, the world transformed, and of course, school cancelled. I never stopped to wonder how the water would make it out of the nearby quarry pits or above the embankments of the M62 to our street—or what it would mean for our house, set below the road at the end of a sloping front garden, if it did. I just saw the rain, and thought it was magical.

I still get that feeling sometimes. I carefully examined the flood maps before we bought our house and the damp patch that appeared after the first heavy rain, so I can enjoy the magic and feel secure, for as long as I don’t think too hard about those with homes on flood plains, or with no homes at all. For as long as I don’t think too hard about why the rain seems to fall more heavily more often these days. I fear a day will come when we are all soaked to the bone. It is a small comfort to remember that, once you are soaked through, you can finally stop hiding from the rain, lift your head, and stride through it.

Margaret Williams

November rain

High fell tops invisible
merging with the leaden sky

paths awash, usurped by infant streams
of this wet autumn’s heavy rains

the ghyll's swollen waters
dashing, swirling, foaming;
their hypnotic roar enveloping,
isolating us from all other sound

The tarn serene, ghostly,
a brimming bowl
accepting without protest
the endless rain

dying bracken, leaves deepest russet,
purple, limp and sad;
defiant amber stalks with unexpected strength
trapping our unwary feet

a single fallen rowan berry
vibrant, crimson, lying
on the dun-brown path

gentle faced sheep, curious
white heads turning as we pass
in the softening light

fairy tale cottages hugging the fellside
their lighted windows sending warmth
along the darkening dale
tiny bats speeding crazily, skilfully,
over our heads, in the growing dusk     

Margaret Kendall

Rainy days on holiday

I’m not someone who likes to bask in the sunshine on a beach, but doesn’t everywhere look better when the sun is out and the sky is blue!  Wearing the right gear, rain doesn’t stop me from enjoying a walk in the countryside, although I do find it harder to set off in the rain than cope with a shower whilst I’m already out.  

Sometimes, rethinking plans because of rain can bring unexpected benefits.  On a Spring holiday in Cornwall, we moved from our cliff top camp site to a more sheltered site nearer to the Eden Project after a forecast of strong winds and very heavy rain.  Our visit to the Eden Project had been long-anticipated and we’d arranged to meet a friend there.  Despite the rain, we had a lovely time chatting, wandering round the gardens under the domes and relaxing in the café.  The tulip display was particularly beautiful.

A photograph showing rows of different brightly coloured tulips underneath the hexagons of the glass domed roof.  The vast height of the roof is apparent as there are trees growing and the people in the picture are small.

The next day, we decided to take advantage of the rather expensive “valid for a year” ticket and spend another day there.  On the first day, we’d had an impressionistic view of the gardens, but on the second day we also really enjoyed taking our time, finding out more about the different plants growing in the temperate, tropical and sub-tropical zones, and reading the featured quotations and poetry.  It was such a memorable experience, I’m glad it rained that day. 

A photograph of a rock in the tropical zone, with a quotation from Nelson Mandela saying "The spirit of Ubuntu - that profound African sense that we are human beings only through the humanity of other human beings - is not a parochial phenomenon but has added globally to our common search for a better world".  There are plants and cacti growing amongst the rocks behind the featured rock.
Ubuntu by Nelson Mandela

Pauline Omoboye


It often comes with showers
Or downpours soaking wet
It comes sometimes from out of nowhere
Umbrellas we have to get.

Manchester is quite used to it
We are often prepared for rain
Childhood rain brought adventures
Each adventure not quite the same.

I remember collecting  lots of wood
Anything we could find
To make our dens waterproof
Leaving nothing of use behind.

We would sneak things from our houses
To make our dens the best
I remember horse haired blankets
Table cloths and the rest.

Scavenging lots of treasures to make our dens keep out the rain
Built on the crofts, in derelict houses,
No new den was quite the same.
Danger we didn’t often see
While walking on the rafters
All we wanted was a home.
Contained with lots of laughter.
I would often see grandma's tablecloths
remnants from curtains mum had made
Our dens full of treasures we collected
all quite gently laid.

So bring the rain let it fall, let it splatter
It brings fond memories to mind
For me the rain is therapeutic
Drip, drip, drop,  leaving wetness behind.

Rain running down a window through which a garden and other windows are just about visible
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Annette Bennett

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe

The day the Pevensey children started their Narnia adventure, it was raining outside.

They said “it’s raining – we can’t go outside and play.

Let’s play hide and seek inside instead”

They found the wardrobe, or more precisely, Lucy did

And so, it all began.

If it hadn’t been raining outside

Maybe we wouldn’t have had that story from C.S. Lewis.

A copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe from the 1960s, held up in front of bookshelves.  The cover shows the children on a hillside carpeted with flowers, next to Aslan, sitting peacefully.  In the sky behind, other images from the story swirl around in a fantastical way.
A copy from the 1960s, with thanks to Anna and Derek Walker

Tony Goulding

  “------ ice cream castles in the air 
  And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would’ve done
But clouds got in my way”

Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now

This month we had a couple of interesting and thought-provoking get togethers discussing “Rainy Days”. The lyrics from “Both Sides Now” by the Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell best reflect my ambivalent thoughts about wet weather.

There is a world of difference between short sharp showery spells in spring or the storm following a sultry day in July or August and periods of prolonged rainfall during the cold winter months.

The first of these can be easily tolerated as being good and appreciated as rain is needed to grow both food from the country’s farms and plants and flowers in our own gardens. Sometimes the rainfall may even be positively welcomed as being refreshing and “clearing the air”.

I vividly recall one instance in which rain falling was loudly cheered. I was in the centre of Cardiff in August 1976 when the heavens opened and brought an end to the drought conditions. Shoppers were so relieved that instead of sheltering in shop doorways many danced in the street!

Winter rain is never welcome unless in a negative way that at least it isn’t snowing. I think the worst facet of rainy days in this season is that cloud cover further restricts daylight already depleted by the short days during December. It is depressing to look out of the window day after day only to see grey skies and wet pavements and that is without suffering from S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Finally, I couldn’t possibly let this topic pass by without reference to that body of people who almost invariably never welcome the rain’s arrival: these are cricket lovers. They are forever plagued by those three cursed words “Rain Stopped Play” or worse the hated mantra “Match abandoned without a ball being bowled”.

I once travelled with a friend all the way to Colwyn Bay only for the fixture to have this fate as did the 1938 Ashes test at Old Trafford referenced in the Hitchcock version of “The Lady Vanishes”.

A view of the floodlit cricket ground at Old Trafford, Manchester in heavy rain under leaden skies. There are covers spread out over the cricket pitch and in the foreground, people standing under umbrellas.
At the Cricket 6 by Anthony O’Neil, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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