The British are by nature an optimistic people - we're the biggest market in Europe for convertibles, for example, which after second marriage is the most wonderful demonstration of the triumph of hope over experience. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we still expect our summers to be dry and balmy, full of days which have a nice country walk with a pub at the end of them, and perhaps a bit of messing about on boats if we're lucky. Every year, when the heavens open, the British mutter noisily about climate change and go around turning off the lights as a kind of totem against global warming-induced rainfall. We badly need to adjust our expectations and recognise that we get a few nice days in April, and a few more in September and as for the rest - well, it's worth investing in a good umbrella.
A little delving around the stats on the Met Office website -and some roving around the internets - suggests August has always been pretty rank, weather-wise. The August bank holiday was, apparently, moved back to the end of the month to give it a fighting chance of decent weather. If you take the years 1971 to 2000, August has a similar average rainfall to March, at 72mm, and who'd plan a barbeque for March? I couldn't find any aggregated stats for the last nine years, but I can't think it's improved any.
If this last week's weather has felt foully inclement, it's by no means untypical. What's more, it's hardly the worst August has thrown at us over the years. In 1912, seven inches of rain fell in one afternoon in Norwich, leaving it marooned in mud and flood detritus. The summer of 1956 was also one I'm relieved to have missed - a few years ago, Paul Simons wrote about it in The Times as being "an assault course of monsoonal rains, big floods, giant hail, houses set ablaze by lightning, howling gales and miserable cold". That August was the coldest and wettest on record.
I'm staring out of the office window at a lowering sky, and at an iPhone app that promises a fine afternoon, and wondering whether to fold this season's wardrobe staple, the ineffably chic Cagoule-Burkha, into its handy handbag-sized pochette, or just to put it on, ready to brave the journey home. Such is my desire to stay dry and avoid damp knees - the curse of a British Summer - that I really don't care what I look like. The rain has completely quashed my vanity and I suspect I'm rapidly turning into the kind of woman who will wear purple in the not too distant future.
However, my real issue with the bloody rain is that it works for me like a reverse pathetic fallacy - the weather doesn't reflect my mood, it dictates it. A little sunshine means outrageous fortune's sharpest arrows just bounce off me, but when it rains, the smallest slight pierces my armour and makes me dreary and depressed, as if life from now on was going to be one long wait at a bus stop in a downpour. I can't even default to my usual cheer-up option, a blowdry, because the merest hint of drizzle undoes the best hairdressers work. Shamefully, on re-reading what I've written I realise that the rain also elicits in me the most appalling self-pity.
Someone needs to start a bad weather self-help blog, or at least suggest some strategies for sloughing off a rain-induced fit of the glooms. Who's going to start the ball rolling? There's a YSL lipstick and a Dolce and Gabbana mascara (lovingly photographed by me on my iPhone) for the suggestion that cheers me up the most.