The rain continues to fall. In the village, people gather in the shop to buy strong liquor, clearly planning to drink their way through it. The farmers look harried and fretful; the cows are downright grumpy. There is a flinty north-eastern pride in getting through the tough winters. The lower the mercury falls, the happier we seem to be. A long snow in January is greeted with a sanguine blitz spirit. The thing is, we are braced for hard weather in the dark months. This is the north of Scotland, it is what we expect. Also, there is something clean and honest about minus 16, and it often comes with a dazzling blue sky and beautiful glittering hoar frosts. This weather, on the other hand, is just sullen and soul-sapping. The sky is the colour of old socks and the land looks sodden and defeated. The blue hills are lost in filthy cloud.
People are now heard seriously discussing the jet stream, which apparently is stuck. Meteorological experts spring up everywhere. Escape plans are hatched. One of my relations said today: ‘I think we are going to drive south.’
‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘Perhaps at the tip of Cornwall you might find a ray of sun.’
‘Oh no,’ she said. ‘The South of France. The cloud goes all the way to Bordeaux.’