This morning it was raining steadily as I prepared for my early walk. For a moment I hesitated. But then I thought, If I don’t go now, I’ll never go when it’s raining. I need to know just how uncomfortable it really is. So I pulled on my walking boots and my hi-vis jacket, found a waterproof hat, and set off.
It was dark, but there was a sort of grey visibility. The rain fell straight, there was no wind. The lane was running with water. There were no cars. For a while I paid attention to the sound of the rain, which was soothing and interesting. Then I found I was following its rise and fall, the rain not constant in its intensity at all, but coming and going. I became acutely aware of those parts of the lane where overhanging trees provided respite. When at last, still in semi-darkness, I turned onto the village road and met a car, it was a shock. The brilliant headlights, the roaring engine, the great splash as it passed, were like an encounter with a monster. The eyes adjust quickly to pre-dawn light, and car headlights feel like a hostile interrogation designed to disorient.
By the time I got to the village shop my lower trousers were wet, but the rest of me was dry beneath my coat. I rather hoped the lady in the shop would express admiration at my great daring, venturing forth in such weather, but she passed over my Guardian without comment. I folded it and tucked it into an inside pocket and set off once more. By now the rain was passing. I met a man with an umbrella who told me so much rain had fallen in the night that the Nevill estate in Lewes was flooded. I felt even more daring.
On the return loop the rain stopped entirely. The trees, formerly my friends, now became my enemies. As I passed beneath them, disturbing birds, they rose up, shaking the leaves, sending cascades of water down on me. Slowly the sky was lightening. The effect was powerful. I told myself Noah must have felt something like this when at last the floods began to recede. Of course I’ve walked in the rain before, but always in the city, and with irritation that I should have to suffer. In the country when it rains I get in the car. This was the first time for a long time that I had chosen freely to walk in the rain. Now I felt proud, invigorated. Meeting Virginia for breakfast I was mortified when she said, ‘I see the rain stopped in time for your walk.’ ‘No, it didn’t,’ I hastened to tell her. ‘It rained very hard for most of the way.’ Then, having established my courage, I had to provide my own virtue. ‘But I didn’t mind at all.’