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Hail to the hail!

English weather is talked about, by the English, a lot. This is because if is caused by about nine different things, such as the Gulf Stream, the North Sea, the Arctic, and several other things of equal importance. It can change at any moment. How they forecaste it, I will never know, but they seem to be able to.

Take today. A fortnight ago, Summer had arrived. Then it got colder and wetter again. Then it brightened up, and yesterday, Michael Jennings was being congratulated for bringing the fine weather with him back from Australia. (Welcome back Michael.) That was Sunday. On Monday, Philip Chaston was back to bemoaning the bad again weather.

This morning was even worse. Windy, wet, horrid, and poor windswept me had business elsewhere in London in the morning. When my event began, men were forlornly standing about in their drenched summer clothes. At lunchtime, my business concluded, I waited in a second hand CD shop for the rain, which had suddenly got far worse, to calm down. When it did, and I ventured out, and it then started severely raining again, I scurried to the nearest tube station, and journeyed to my local station, Pimlico. What I found when I emerged from that was something else again.

I found this:


I know what you are thinking. A tree, confused by the early summer sunshine, has blossomed, but then, shaken to its roots by the mad May breezes, it has shed its plumage and been given a good February-style soaking.

But look again at that “blossom”. When I first saw it, on the steps of the station, I of course could see that it was not blossom, and I thought: snow. But actually, it was hail. The hardest, most spherical, most peculiar hailstones I have ever seen in my life. They were perfectly spherical, and looked more like bits of polystyrene than anything natural.

I spent the next twenty minutes snapping artistic type photos of this hail with my Canon A70. In photography circles you are nobody until you have taken close-up, shiny droplet photos of all the various things that water does, when it lands on strange surfaces. So I snapped away at car roofs from close up, hoping that the results would resemble Abstract Expressionism.


The hail stones were not especially big, in fact they were quite small. But having been frozen with great ferocity, presumably at some extraordinary altitude, they appeared impervious to the ground temperature. They floated about in clumps, in puddles, melting not at all. Had my batteries not run out I could probably have carried on snapping away at them for the next hour.

The Dissident Frogman, with whom I discussed this English habit of weather talk only yesterday, said that, yes, in France, if it starts raining, it is liable to rain for the next three days, so there is nothing to be said. In England, you just never know from one hour to the next what the weather will do. Or when. I like it.

There is no political or philosophical message here, just English talk about the weather. But what I most like about stuff like this is that everything interesting to look at is now a photo-opportunity. That I really like. Well done my Canon A70.

14 comments to Hail to the hail!

  • I could hardly believe it when I looked out the window this afternoon and saw that lot dumping out of the sky… weird weather! Bloody great hailstones!

  • Having lived the better part of a year in London not so long ago, I’d take English weather in a heartbeat over that of the Midwest USA – or worse, central Canada. When those frigid Alberta Clippers blow down from Canada, one can only dream of the mild, wet English weather. Why just the other day we had an inch of snow on the tulips and daffodils here near the Great Lakes. Unfortunately spring snow is so routine that no one bothers to take pictures – we just turn pray for a heat wave (40 degrees – Fahrenheit, that is).

  • posting from the midwest I’d have to agree with above – over the last month we’ve gone from -10 to 88 and for the last few weeks teh temperature has daily osiclated between 30 and 70. Needless to say the ac and heating havent managed to mirror this sync

  • the A80 is so much better, even if I only bought it because my a70 got stolen in transport!

    and french people talk a lot about the weather, especially when it doesn’t ‘fait beau’ in may

  • Euan Gray

    I like the photo of the hail on the car. And to think you were deprecating your photographic ability in the earlier post about the plage ‘n’ history meeting…


  • English weather is awful for about three months of the year – between December and February the days are short, the sky is grey, the temperature is a little chilly, and it is eternally drizzling. Despite all that, it is not especially cold compared to winters in many places.

    On the other hand, the weather for the other nine months of the year is quite nice. It still drizzles and rains occasionally (although serious storms are virtually unheard of), but the sun and blue sky are seen regularly (even the last couple of days have had pleasant sunny evenings) and the days are long. I like it. It’s much better than the hot and humid weather of my native Australia.

  • The black & white shot is very nice. Well done you and you A70

  • Thanks Alan, and for all the great photography advice you’ve been giving me lately.

    Looking at the second picture some more, I think these particular hailstones look like little Alien eggs.

  • It was an impressive hail-storm. Rather nice that I was in my flat at my desk writing, not out in it. I just love English weather… There was red moon as well last night!

  • toolkien

    Living in southern WI I can attest to the ups and downs of the weather. But I was going to add it’s not great shakes being part of tornado alley either, though I found this.

  • RAB

    Fine photo’s! Isn’t digital wonderful. I take my Nikon with me everywhere now and try all sorts of shots that in the old print processing days you’d say to yourself “nahh that’ll never come out, and why pay good money for a blurry blob of a photo 15 times out of 24”. They don’t all come out now , but digital is increasing my interest and imagination and it’s costing very little. Add to that the photoshop type editing progs and we’re in a new world.

  • Pete (Detroit)

    Thanx, toolkin, for the interestign links. Also, kudos to Brian for the way cool pix!
    I was driving past Chicago a few years ago, and hail the size of golf balls started coming down! Made a horrendous noise on the windshield, even at low speeds. Finally found a bridge to hide under until it passed. After, the road was treacherously lumpy as well as slippery, and all the ice laying around brought on a VERY heavy fog… at 3 in the afternoon in late May!
    “Women, the weather and cats – no matter the complaint, they will do whatever they want” (paraphrasing) RHeinlien

  • Cydonia


    “English weather is awful for about three months of the year – between December and February… On the other hand, the weather for the other nine months of the year is quite nice.”

    It’s kind of you to say so, but speaking as a Brit I’d have to admit that November and March haven’t got much going for them either 🙁


  • Verity

    I don’t know where Dissident is, or was, in France, but where I am the weather is of consuming interest. Although it’s May, three days ago we had 24 hours of mind-bogglinng storms with high velocity winds and very serious flooding – windows too swollen to open – and people in the epicerie behaved as though someone in charge had behaved badly. Well, not really, because when someone in charge behaves badly in France, nothing happens. But they were shocked. Shocked!

    And the temperatures were down to 13, when they should have been around 24, a cause for many a self-righteous shudder and a meeting of meaningful eyes of condemnation.

    Today they were debating whether the temperature was normal but the wind was making it cold, or whether it was too humid to judge.

    One woman nodded at me darkly and said, “And it’s going to be the same tomorrow.”

    Except in the tropics, where it’s predictable, and areas where there is a dependable four discrete seasons, humans everywhere are interested in the weather.