Of Storms and Lost Causes

Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky

Stormy weather

Since my man and I ain’t together

Keeps rainin’ all the time.

Billie Holiday lamenting on a lost cause in her interpretation of the 1933 Arlen and Koehler classic « stormy weather ».

It is a day of stormy weather and lost causes – St Jude’s day.

Of course, had the Meteorological Office in London  not chosen to give the name of this lesser known saint to the storms currently battering the south east of England, well, I doubt of any of us would have ever heard of St Jude – the patron saint of lost causes. I should also add that St Jude shares his day with St Simon, who is the patron saint of woodcutters, which seems apt on this day, when trees are being uprooted and blown down by 90 mile an hour winds all across London. When a 100-year-old oak falls on the road, a woodcutter has to come along and cut it up before it is removed.

As London is lashed by storms, out here in deepest small-town France, we too are having our fair share of St Jude’s day stormy weather, leading to a few notable lost causes.

Pity the poor postman – battling against 50 mile an hour prevailing winds and driving rain. No weather to be out on a bicycle, especially a heavy postman’s bike – 24 kilos of cumbersome reinforced bike to which you can add 10 kilos of mail. The postman may have electrically assisted pedalling, but when it’s all uphill in an oncoming wind.  The poor old postman just gave up this morning. No matter, it’s Monday and for some reason Monday’s post always brings bills.

Another lost cause – the local municipal gardeners out gathering up leaves. Clad head to toe in their Bright orange wet weather gear, looking more like weapons inspectors or Tellytubbies than the trusted guardians of our local open spaces.

On a bright (and dry) autumn day, leaves are poetic – gorged with seasonal gold and red, cascading down in light flurries from the trees. Today leaves are just wet clumps of backbreaking misery to be shovelled up and slung into the back of a Council lorry. Normally the men in orange suits have blowers and suckers – those wonderful machines that blow dry leaves into a neat pile, then suck them up and shred them. The leaves are too wet. The workers have resorted to green plastic brooms. Waiting at the traffic lights, I just gaze admiringly at the gardeners – oh the absolute misery of working outside on such a day. Car windows are up, but I can see the workers mouthing curses at the elements. The f*****g rain, the f*****g wind. Gathering leaves in a head on wind, just as much as a lost cause as pissing in the wind. Whatever goes into a prevailing wind always comes back in your face.

On this St Jude’s day, yet another lost cause – my morning resolution to get down to some work – the preparation of lessons, but all resolutions are always lost causes, and on this, the first day of the French school half term, in true ex-pat style, I get on the Internet and tune into BBC radio London. Minute by minute storm commentary, almost like a football match. Every half hour, the travel news and storm report – a long litany of storm damage rattled off like football results – trees down in Turnpike lane, a crane fallen on the Cabinet office in Whitehall. Train and bus services cancelled.

Things are bad, though not as bad as forecasters predicted, and as callers ring into the morning phone in, many of them sound almost disappointed. « My grandparents lived through the Blitz » announces Sylvie from Dagenham, « they’d have laughed at us today, cancelling train services all ‘cos of a bit of bad weather. The Luftwaffe never stopped them going to work. »

All life has stopped for a Storm that is actually not as serious as the big storms of 1987 – the Storm that no one predicted, and so everyone grumbled and now we have Storm warnings days in advance and we are all still grumbling.

« A policeman stopped from cycling to work » complains Eddie from Croydon – « said it was too dangerous. » Yes, perhaps more than a little foolhardy to pedal across London as trees are falling everywhere. I daresay my poor postman would like to have been prevented from doing his rounds this morning.

Trisha from Leyton rings in to tell the world that a tree has just fallen on her car « Erm, what can I do ??? » The programme is suddenly awash with callers all offering sympathy, god advice and even a lift to work. Nothing like adversity to bring out good old London solidarity.

Finally, around 12pm, the weathergirl announces the end of the Storm warning, and in a voice, tinged with relief, and even a little relish, she announces that the Storm is crossing to France.

Finally, in my saintly research, I found that it is St Vitus who is the patron saint of storms, – though any further research only brings up page after page of a Doom metal band called St Vitus. So, here I am listening to doom metal as I write, and frankly, it is a bit of a musical lost cause. Give le Billie Holiday any day.

Finally, there seems to be an I phone app for everything nowadays, including an App from the Catholic church, telling you about the saint of the day.