Rant coming up, and it’s only crime-related in a general sense, and fiction-related in the sense that so-called experts seem to spout a lot of garbage that’s only tenuously connected to fact. Sorry about that, but sometimes I need to let off some steam.
Complaining about the weather is a kind of national pastime here in the UK, even though we usually have a lot less to complain about than many other parts of the world. But once in a while the gods of meteorology send us something to remind us how lucky we are most of the time.
I say once in a while, but looking back over the past few years, it’s been rather more than that. Pretty much every year since I joined the Dead Guy team, and maybe even before, some part of the country has been under water for days at a time. Bridges (and people) have been washed away; businesses have been in ruins; train timetables have been shot to pieces. Whaddya know, folks, the UK does get extreme weather after all! Maybe not city-felling hurricanes or twenty-foot snow, but bad enough.
For some reason, my own corner of the UK really has been lucky this time. It’s rained, heavily and often, and the puddles don’t go away; main roads are frequently awash and rivers are scarily full. But the water hasn’t started to come through the floorboards; all our plumbing is still functional; and we haven’t made contingency plans to move in with relatives if things get out of hand.
So far. It’s still raining. so excuse me while I send up a quick plea to any deity who might be listening that I haven’t just invoked the dreaded Murphy’s Law.
But if you’re planning a visit to the UK in the next few weeks, you really don’t want to go to most of the West Country, especially Somerset (not that you could get there anyway – the railway line has been washed away), and it’s best to steer clear of most of the south coast and west Wales.
I think the biggest problem for those of us whose abodes are wet but not dangerously so is the feeling of total powerlessness. The government and various other agencies have, at last, better late than never, sent in sandbags, pumps, boats, food supplies and other accoutrements of succour – but they can’t stop it happening. And once again, just like every other time, the media, and more significantly the politicos who hold the purse strings, have been using words like ‘exceptional conditions’ and ‘once in a hundred years’.
Technically they’re right; the January that’s just ended probably was the wettest January since 1760-something. But the fact is, it keeps happening. Those people whose houses have been waist-deep in filthy water since before Christmas don’t give a damn if it happens in January, June or September; all they know is that they’ve lost their livelihoods, and in some cases their lives. And when it’s over and things are back to normal, if normal still exists, they won’t be able to get house insurance any more because of the extreme danger that it will happen again and again, and they’ll keep on being flooded out.
According to the scientists who study these things, the problem is the jet stream.
Being a humble wordsmith, I have next to no idea what the jet stream is, aside from a thick curvy line on a map, but I’m told it usually passes above these islands of ours, and draws the stormy weather relatively harmlessly out into the ocean. At the moment it’s cutting a swathe right through the Midlands, and pulling in one storm after another to batter the lower half of the country.
Scientists, though not the same ones, have wiped out several diseases which used to decimate populations. Engineers design jet engines that can travel thousands of miles without refuelling, and missiles which can pretty well identify a specific building to crush.
But the weather is like the common cold. All we can do is curl up with a good book and wait for it to go away.
And what are the odds that at some point during what we laughingly call summer, it will be dry for long enough for some drama queen politician to decide there’s a drought, and start putting water-saving measures in place?
Back to crime fiction next week. Promise.