Seriously, have you ever known a winter like this?
I make no apologies for banging on about the weather this winter - sure, if you read this blog and live outside of northern Europe then you are most likely thinking come on Henry, get over it, it's winter after all. But if you live close to the coast like I do here in south east Cornwall, or indeed you are being affected by some kind of flooding then you will understand exactly why. So come on then, can you ever remember a winter like this one? I can remember more intense periods of rain and I can remember worse storms, but when did we last have such sustained periods of such strong winds and the resulting rough seas?
If you work around the sea or use it for recreational purposes then the weather means a lot to you. I have lived in the south west for over twenty years now and to be honest I feel mildly uncomfortable being away from the sea and not being able to look outside and instantly know which direction the wind is coming from. I am a saltwater angler at heart and my love for the sea is something I embrace and simply accept as being a part of me. We tend to know the sea and most of her moods and as anglers we have no choice but to move with her rhythms and base what we do around the conditions. Many of you I am sure can remember many more winters than me, but I wonder when we last had so many storms almost in succession?
I used to obsess about cod fishing in the winter, and I can distinctly remember waiting for SW gales so that we could go and fish certain spots that worked in those conditions. From memory we had a few winters not that long ago when we practically never actually had a "proper" set of gales, and those infernal NW winds would blow and blow for days on end. Even when we did get a "normal" winter there would be periods of calm winter weather when the flounder guys would start jumping around (ok, not quite, but you know what I mean). And rain? Well it's winter. It rains in winter. Sometimes a lot, and sometimes not so much.
By no means do I mean to belittle one bit those who are being so badly affected by floods, but apart from the odd damp patch in the house and our constant need to wear waterproofs to walk the dog, I can't pretend that even a pissing wet winter such as this one actually affects me that much - save for wanting to spend winters somewhere warmer, drier, and with bigger, bluer skies. Nope, it's the winds that I take real notice of. I don't even think it's a particularly strong Slayer album, but the title "God Hates Us All" keeps popping into my head with regards to this winter's weather.
I am sure there are any number of reasons for the almost constant gales we are getting, and I am also pretty sure the various global warming arguments will be thrown around for months to come. I accept completely that there are far too many people on this planet and we are doing it irreparable amounts of damage, but I happen to believe that nature as a force is something that we will never come close to fully understanding. It seems that the jet stream has got stuck again and is helping to funnel all those winter storms in an almost perfect line over the south west of Ireland and the UK especially. Do you remember when the jet stream last got stuck and we got that perfectly dreadful summer?
If you stop and think about it, as frustrating and indeed destructive as these near-constant gales are, surely you can't help but also be impressed by what is going on? I have cabin fever like you would not believe and I gaze at my lures as if they are in some kind of hibernation mode, but at the end of the day it's pretty impressive what nature is throwing at us. As a race we surge ahead with all kinds of technological breakthroughs. We send probes to Mars, we can explore the deepest parts of the oceans, and we can fly almost anywhere on earth in under a day - but when the weather decides to give us a hammering we are as helpless as newborn lambs. I don't for one second glory in any kind of destruction, but I can't help finding it somewhat comforting in a way that from time to time we are shown up for the rather puny and perhaps ineffectual beings we actually are when faced with a rampaging nature.
To watch as manmade structures are torn apart with what can only be described as impunity is pretty awe inspiring if you ask me. Things that have stood for ages smashed under a relentless barrage of brutal winds. Cornwall has no mainline train service for the foreseeable future because the weather tore sections of it apart in a fit of rage that seems to know no end. Seafronts smashed up as if they had never actually been standing there in defiance of the sea for years beforehand. It's awesome stuff is it not?
I took my girls for a walk up to Rame Head on Saturday morning and if anything Whitsand Bay was raging even more than it had been when I was out there photographing on Wednesday. It was just awesome. I held on tight to my youngest daughter's hand as my wife and elder daughter eventually turned back because they could hardly stand up. But we carried on and made it to the top of Rame Head where Storm promptly got blown off the concrete platform up there when she jumped up onto it. Weather like that is truly awe inspiring. You look at the sea smashing into the shoreline and you know that you don't belong anywhere near it when it's like that. I can't help but admire it but on the other hand I have a healthy respect and also a degree of fear. When you are stuck in the middle of this run of weather you can't help but wonder if it will ever get back to normal - but it will. When you are fishing your favourite spots again in perfect conditions, this winter will seem like a distant memory, albeit we will know we could get another one like it again. Next year? Ten years from now? Who knows.................