As a child I loved to hear stories and would curl up in front of the roaring coal fire with my head on the red patterned leather pouffe listening to members of my family ‘tell the tale’.
They were all good at it and often embellished and exaggerated many a story I’d heard before; especially if there were a new pair of ears in the room, or if they’d had a couple of glasses from the decanters on the sideboard.
My Uncle Pat’s Birthday fell on February 2nd and he mischievously boasted that he instinctively knew what the weather was going to be like as he was born on Candlemas Day. A day of ritual it marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox and traditionally predicts the weather for the rest of the winter.
Old proverbs proclaimed that a fine bright sunny Candlemas day means that there is more winter to come, whereas a cloudy wet stormy day means that the worst of winter is over.
I found out much later in life that in North America, it’s known as Groundhog Day.
Brought up on these predictions I spent a great deal of my early childhood, looking for red skies at night – and in the morning – checking the rings around the moon to see if it would rain and knowing if there was a cloudless, star filled, night time sky I’d need to wrap up warm the next day.
When we went for walks to Knitsley I was first to spot the cows lying down in the fields and proudly predicted showers. And without question I’d run into my Nana’s to ask her if her knees were aching before I packed my umbrella!
However when I started school the realisation hit home that all this meteorological knowledge wasn’t just shared between me and my Uncle Pat; surprisingly, other people knew about it!
Disappointed that our wisdom wasn’t exclusive I questioned his skills and asked for proof of his powers. Undaunted by my doubt he rose to the occasion.
Clattering around in the cupboard under the stairs he emerged with a tin bucket and proceeded to remove the handle from the mop. Mesmerised I watched as he found string in the kitchen drawer and meticulously wound it through the holes in the mop head, leaving a arm’s length dangling.
Opening the heavy kitchen door, he marched into the back garden and threw the mop head over the clothes line, securing it by tying the string tightly.
He told me to keep an eye on the mop as he was off to make me something special so I could predict the weather too.
Delighted with his efforts I proudly sellotaped my weather chart to the inside of the back door and happily consulted it every day!