You’ll probably think I’m some kind of Swiss Toni-style chauvinist, obsessed with women and comparing everything to them… well, you probably already did, but anyway, stop distracting me — I think of thunderstorms as very similar to women: part of their mystique is that I never seem to encounter a good one, and either miss them entirely, am left disappointed, or watch them go to someone else less deserving. How so? Let me count the ways…
- All too often it’s a no-show: many’s the time I’ve updated the weather report only to see the thunderstorm symbol disappear from the forecast, or watched dark clouds pass by my window (as is happening a lot in August) without any kind of interesting outcome, much as occurs with attractive women in summer dresses on the Tube.
- A sub-type is when instead of disappearing entirely, they visibly go to someone else; we all know how hot chicks inevitably have boyfriends (who are of course total jerks, simply for existing), but in thunderstorm terms this happened to me in 2004 when I was at university in the East End. I watched helplessly as a big thunderstorm ignored me and went towards the centre of London… oh well, at least the people queuing up for the premiere of Catwoman in the West End had something interesting to watch (okay, maybe they needed it more).
- When one does come into my life, mostly it’s over before it’s even really begun — one crack of thunder and then nothing but rain and dark skies, or one date and then nothing but unanswered text messages. This happens too often in either case to give an example.
- Very occasionally one will come into my life that seems pretty good, but for whatever reason I’m unable to see anything — be it a powerful thunderstorm in July that I could barely see due to surrounding houses, or the (allegedly) pretty girl I chatted to via Tinder in Michigan who lived too far away for me to go and see her (it was my last night and I couldn’t impose upon my “second family” to drive me from Fenton to Lansing at such short notice)!
Of course, the analogy breaks down when you consider that I witnessed some spectacular thunderstorms back in the 1980s and 1990s (since this coincided with the rise of hot summers, I imagine global warming had a part to play), long before I got interested in girls. Unfortunately, with me being a timid child (and later teenager), night-time thunderstorms scared the hell out of me if they woke me up — I still recall all those times I cowered, covering my ears, whenever lightning flashed through my curtains, as I waited in trepidation for the inevitable deafening crash… at one point in my childhood I used to spend the night in my mother’s room, on the ludicrous pretext that my bed was between two power sockets, and thus if lightning struck the house, I’d be electrocuted!
(Obviously nowadays, as a mature, sensible grown-up, I spend the night in your mother’s room, heh heh heh…)
Our dog Scraps was also scared of thunder (and fireworks), and since my mother was her favourite human in the family, she tended to do the same thing. During a nocturnal storm in the summer of (I think) 1994, when we lived in Worthing but my mother worked in Surrey during the week, I heard Scraps scratching at my door; she’d clearly been scared by a particularly loud roll of thunder (which sometimes vibrated very loudly against the patio door in the room where she slept), and was seeking comfort wherever she could. As she trotted into my room, she refused to look up and make eye contact with me, almost as though she was ashamed of having to resort to me instead of her mum, and was saying: “Don’t say a word, we both know what this is!”
Going abroad has frequently led to superior thunderstorms — not Michigan recently, alas, as they kept avoiding me (my old roommate’s brother-in-law says the same thing happens to him when he comes over from Washington), but certainly when I was there in 1998-9, and I saw sparks emerging from a street light! Years before that, my mother and I saw lightning in the distance from a high-up hotel room in Florida (I worried we might be in danger, but my mother just breathed: “It’s spectacular!”), and before that, during a holiday in Spain for the whole family, we witnessed an awesome day-long storm. That one led to leaks in our villa and the power being out for most of the next day, so it was a mixed blessing…
Oh, and I should mention the fact that “female best friend”, who was once terrified of flying, actually asked to look out through the window next to my seat as we flew over a night-time thunderstorm in 2008, on our way to Turkey. How’s that for bravery? But I suppose it highlights how hotter countries get far more spectacular thunderstorms than the damp squibs with which we are frequently insulted in this country.
I know, be careful what you wish for: lightning is dangerous and can start fires, and tornadoes (the very idea of which scared me as a child, and still scares me today) are created by thunderstorms. But even so, nature’s fireworks are far more interesting than the boring old gunpowder-based ones that chavs like to fire at people in town centres, so you’ll forgive me for continuing to hope
and pray for a good thunderstorm… and to continue playing video games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, which fills the void to some extent (as games often do).
(And just to return to my opening theme: yes, video games also help me cope with the lack of a girlfriend — especially ones where you can get laid, like Mass Effect and The Witcher!)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to staring out the window at the dismal, overcast sky, wishing it would erupt into dazzling violence… well, not right away, I have to go to the shop…