My notable weather memories


Doubtless we all have our own favourite memories of our amazing British weather. Some of my memories aren't of particularly notable events, but of quite minor things in childhood: cumulus clouds floating against a deep blue sky on a summer's day; a heat haze across fields; autumn dew on the lawn; frost on the window; rain pouring down (as it often seemed to in Southampton); being frightened of thunderstorms.

Indeed, in my childhood all the months of the year were as follows:

January: cold and snowy but mostly sunny.

February: cold and snowy with severe frosts, and always dull.

March: the snow turns to sludge half way through the month, when it becomes very windy.

April: sunshine and showers, with a rainbow every day.

May: I don't have any clear memories of May.

June: Warming up, with flowers coming out.

July: Always hot, sunny, and cloudless.

August: Hot with warm humid nights with lots of moths flying about. Cumulus clouds in the morning turn into many violent thunderstorms by the evening. Dew in the morning.

September. Often very wet indeed.

October. Leaves turning, windy, plenty of rain, but always a week with a warm Indian summer.

November. Fog all month long.

December. Wet and windy until Christmas, but with frost and snow from the 26th on. Every year.


Here are the memories I can date.

London storms. I think these must have been September 1961 or August 1962. I remember the light as being brilliant yellow. My father tried to comfort me (I think) by saying that it was the sound of angels banging together; this upset me even more. Now I go out of my way to experience a good thunderstorm.

The great freeze of 1962-63. I can remember Christmas Eve in 1962, and winter arrived in the south soon after. I remember making a snowman. The snow was thick and white. We lived in Southampton at the time, having moved from London, and it's possible that it was the first snow I ever experienced. I was just over four at the time. I don't really remember any misery caused by the winter, or even the way it persisted, but I do remember frost on the windows, which must have been then, and large icicles dangling from eaves. Have you noticed how we don't get icicles any more?

I don't remember many specific events in the 60s, but I do have many specific memories of weather phenomena: dew glistening on the grass in autumn; a rainbow in an evening shower, a cumulus cloud against a deep blue sky. I think I have more of these "flashbulb memories" that are weather related than those that are not!

The summer of 1969. July was one of the few hot months of the 60s - even then it was nothing compared with what was to come. It seemed cloudless - which can't be right.

Not a lot happened in the early 70s. These were the dark days of weather.

I do remember a spring evening and the air being laden with the scent of honeysuckle. I remember the evening being warm – which of course might not have been the case. From inspection of the CETs from the early seventies, this event might therefore have been May 1970 or 1971.

Summer 1975. The first time I remember the heat being stifling. I remember walking on the Isle of Wight with the air being thick with heat haze.

The summer of 1976 in Southampton ("phew, what a scorcher" - was this headline then? was it real?; "hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement" - see my description of June 1976), and the thunderstorms at the end. I remember working in an airless office without air conditioning; people were hot. 1975 was also memorable, but now the two years are confounded in my memory. The heat of 1975 seemed accompanied by less blue skies; it was hazier. I also remember the wonderful thunderstorms at the end of the heatwave.

The winter of 1982 in Cambridge (the Cam froze over, but unfortunately I couldn't afford a proper thermometer at the time).

February 1986 in Coventry. We had just bought a house there, and it had no heating apart from a small portable electric fire. The toilet froze, too, which was annoying. The overflow pipe had a six-inch icicle dangling from it.

The cold snap of January 1987. For some reason I particularly remember the weather forecast the night before. I think it was John Kettley.

Being on the edges (Coventry) of the Great Storm in October 1987. We slept through it.

The summer of 1990 (unfortunately I was out of the country that day). Later that year was the blizzard that brought the Midlands (including our car) to a halt for a few days in early December.

The great West Midlands blizzard of December 1990. We had a party the night before: I told our guests that they would be snowed in, but of course, no one paid any attention. We struggled to get to the shops in the car, but couldn't budge an inch, so dressed like Arctic explorers, we set out on a great half mile expedition.

August 1995 in the Midlands, just being hot and sunny all the time. I remember getting off a bus and thinking "wow". This shows how fallible memory is, because I don't think I've been on a bus for years.


From when I left the Midlands at the end of August 1996, see Extreme weather events in East Scotland 1996 on

for notable weather events

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