The Hottest September Day for Over a Century


Today, we were warned, was going to be the hottest September day in the UK since 1961, on the strength of which, not to mention the rich blue sky in Stockport this morning, I set off for work jacket-less.

Apparently, at the time of writing this, it’s the hottest September day in the UK since 1949 (if you’re at Heathrow, that is). In Stockport, it’s dry, but the sunny promise of the morning has long since dissolved. We’ve already had dark, glouring, hee-hee, we’re going to rain dark clouds in the west, behind the building, and at the moment, at only 4.30pm, the Pennines are lining up like pale blue cut-outs – and even as I am typing this, it starts to pour, with the sound of a jetliner.

It’s vertical rain, not yet streaking the windows of our building but already hammering down with a consistency that suggests its ultimate aim is to fill the Mersey basin this afternoon.

The air has filled with grey mist, like a thin soup of rain, and I sit here in the shirt-sleeves that I will have to travel home in if this persists to 9.00pm: deep joy.

Those air conditions on the Pennines that caught my eye have vanished. It is just about possible to see as far as the church tower on the far side of the Town Centre, but anything beyond that might as well not exist. The enfilades of light that seem to lie between the distant lines of Pennines have soaked away.

Later: this is now the hottest September day in the UK since 1911, since when we have had two World Wars and I am staring at clouds built up in the west that look like armies clad in dark grey, ready to swoop down out of the hills and slaughter us all. Technically, this is still only 5.50pm but the sky is set to 3.00pm on a particularly dismal November afternoon.

Given that we’re on the fifth floor, I have requested that a cabinet of chemicals be hastily procured and set up beside me so that, when the inevitable lightning bolt strikes (and the bastards are striking thick and fast directly overhead), I can be thrown through it and turn into Barry Allen.

One of my colleagues reassures me that there are taller buildings around us, but over the course of a long life, there is little that I’ve been spared on the grounds that it was more likely to happen to someone else.

The lightning is still striking, even after the height of the storm has passed eastwards. The rain is still roaring down, like the storms in Key Largo when Edward G Robinson won’t let the locals take refuge in the hotel when the storm reaches its height. I’m wearing a white shirt, and I’m remembering an evening over thirty years ago, when Chris and I went down to London to represent our firm’s London Office cricket team.

Our trip coincided with a late afternoon cloudburst, making our coach trip to the ground, in South London, somewhat tricky. At one point, we had to go under a bridge, over a dip, where the water was so high, local kids were swimming in it.

It had stopped raining by the time we reached the ground, though the groundsman was reluctant to let us play and would only let us start if we promised to limit ourselves to 15 overs a side. It didn’t take long for the rain to return and, with the exception of the over in which I attempted to purvey slow right arm offspin, with a wet ball, and with rain running down my glasses (that’s my explanation for conceding 12 runs), I spent most of the innings in the outfield, staring down at my soaked white shirt, counting my bedraggled chest hairs through its translucency. We did win, though, no thanks to me (I didn’t get to bat).

Now it’s been raining and throwing lightning about for two hours and it hasn’t ceased once. One of my colleagues saw the entire east to north-east skyline it up by chain lightning, though I didn’t get my head up in time. On the other hand, the night sky has just seconds ago been riven, due north. My colleague Neil is convinced this is actually Ragnarok coming to pass, though I think this is just wishful thinking. That lightning could be striking in Levenshulme, and I don’t think many people will miss it.

Come 9.00pm, it was dry and I made it home without a drop falling on me, though my bus, which is supposed to go across the Town Centre and climb up Lancashire Hill, found its way blocked irretrievably by something and had to return to the bus station to start a new, completely off-route attempt, which didn’t actually join onto the official route until two stops before I got off.

Yes, the Hottest September Day in the UK since 1911. I am not impressed.

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