Friday, July 27, 2007

Be an Onion

What is with this d*rn weather?

When I first came to England I could not fathom why the British continuously talked about the weather and drank so much tea. The tea bit made sense almost instantly as just having my hands around a cup of tea (that I didn't drink) made me feel warm and loved in the dark depths of that first winter. But the weather? Really? Where I come from the weather goes 4 ways, - extreme sweaty heat, thundering rain, foggy cold and a few spring-like weeks. Over here however there seemed to be a perpetual state of shades of cold and grey.

I learnt the British obsession with weather much like a game of russian roulette. A game at which my luck sucks big time. I’d look out the window on a purportedly spring day, see a sparkling blue sky, walk out in a t-shirt and thin jacket and whooosh, like a slap in the face I'd have to turn back and put on more appropriate outerwear. Or I'd wander out in the dead of winter in multiple heavy layers and promptly melt into a puddle on the overheated tube floor, leaving nothing behind but a soggy pile of overcoats, multiple pairs of socks and a bewildered compartment of tube passengers. Or better yet I would lug my heavy overcoats (yes, more than one) all over the countryside during the hottest summer days, murmurring like a mad woman, "Oooh, but the weather could change any time".

You see British people have got it down to a pat. They can smell the weather and dress appropriately. And more than anything they can layer. If I have learnt anything in my 5and1/2 years here, it is this: Layering is the art and purview of thin people. It's an undiscovered sport in my opinion, who can be the best onion, whose layers will be most most ingenious, accurate for any weather emergency and yet look as effortless/ fashionable as possible. The possible permutation combinations seem to stem from a range of gear, from the inside outwards: a warm layer, a nice-on-the-eyes-formal/casual-layer (often mutliple layers of nice), another warm layer (like a jumper/pullover/ sweater), a summer jacket or winter overcoat or a rain proof layer, a summer scarf, a wooley winter scarf, stockings or matching socks, a windcheater, an umbrella and of course the the obligatory watch, jewellery, handbag beside appropriate shoes. My entire wardrobe is smaller than this list.

I am a loser at this sport. I tried it in my first few years at it, more to cope with the weather than fashion trends. All I achieved was the now patented image of a waddling potato. I gave up pretty quickly and decided that I would brave the elements and adopt a two layer policy, one layer casual/formal layer and a coat/shawl of some kind. I suffer for my art.

This years brilliant weather (I say, dripping sarcasm) has meant that on any given day the temperature will fluctuate wildly, going from being warm-ish and sunny to being gale like in minutes. The rain pours down in bursts and then chinese-torture-drips till the cloud passes by. The sun sparkles against puffball clouds for a few minutes while the brisk wind whips around creating mini-tornadoes of discarded newspaper and sandwich wrappers. It's not pleasant. My plants seem to be the only happy recipients of the incessent rain. No matter how closely I follow the weather forecast and on how many channels and sites I turn for advice there is no escaping the madness of British weather. It is unpredictable beyond belief and I am consistently unprepared yet strangely beyond caring. There is no summer to speak of this year and I now completely understand the obsession with weather. I don't have the wardrobe for it, but I do understand it.

Sadly I am still more potato than onion.

P.S. No rude comments about onions being purple-red and smelly please. I happen to like onions, majestic in their royal skin, pleasant in their plumpness. And if I managed to dress in layers I'd use perfume.


  1. Here's to your future nion metamorphoses. Am sure you'll do it with panache.

  2. Anonymous12:47 AM

    move to the US!!!ha!!!40in2006

  3. The weather obsession still amazes me. But have found it to be such a convenient conversation starter with strangers.

    Though sad about half the country being flooded.. am much happier with the rain than the terrible heat last year.

  4. oh the weather dilemma. It can be quite tricky in England as you said but maybe you need a little more time to have it down like the rest of them? :-)

  5. Anonymous8:22 AM

    British weather must be a lot like the weather in Massachusetts, which is pretty crummy much of the time and can fluctuate 20 degrees within hours. Bostonians love to say, "If you don't like the weather in Boston, just wait a minute."

  6. Anonymous6:29 PM

    The other day I actually bought a jumper when I was out and the weather changed so drastically-it had started off all sunny. Really depressing. Hope we have a warm winter.

  7. Heh... after nearly 6 years here, I now understand the weather obsession :) In fact I find myself talking about it too... this year especially, a sunny day IS something to talk about, it's been that rare! :) Still, I prefer the rain to the sweltering summer we had last year. My hayfever went absolutely haywire!

  8. if we didn't complain about the weather then we would have nothing better to do :)

    Although a few day's of sunshine would be bliss ... i'm looking forward to the beautiful Indian summer the weatherman keeps promising next month!

  9. 30:
    I never got it too, till I moved to Down Under - weather is a perpetual topic of conversation - esply in Wlg, where you can and do have four seasons in one day...

  10. They say Seattle weather is very similar, and it is true that winters become fairly dreary here. The trick is to work in an office without a window. The weather then is everything you can imagine it to be :-)

  11. I too understood the obsession with weather only when I moved to the US. In Chennai it was hot hotter hottest...and here - my god so many changes even within a single day!
    Nice post!

  12. I am with shyam on this one.. I hate the sunny weather this week, because my hayfever gets aggravated.. bring the clouds on, if you ask me !!

  13. I've been reduced to leaving a cardigan at work (even in 'summer'). Certainly don't want to be caught if it rains suddenly (hah!) or if there's hail (happened in May!).

    My trusty umbrella stays in my purse. On sunny days, it's really odd to walk around with fewer layers - it

  14. Haha! This could have been written about Alberta! Having been born and raised here, there is a part of me that actually looks forward to September, when fashion trends start looking to boots and wools skirts and cozy scarves and fashionable overcoats. Hovever, by November the thrill is gone as all anyone ever sees of you from then until March is actually the outer layer of extremely warm overcoat, scarves and hats. The "looking fashionable while staying warm" doesn't work here, it's too cold. Maybe New York. Or Atlanta. :-)

    You've got a start on layering--don't give up hope. You'll probably grasp it some day! (I still have trouble judging, and I've been living here for 30 years next Friday!)

  15. Anonymous7:09 AM

    these days i venture out with warm jackets, an umbrella and sunglasses for my kids! never know what the weather will chnage into after 15 min.

    --another londonwaali

  16. Iz: Yes, with time and help I shall be the prettiest, most stylish Onion this side of the English Channel

    40in2006: No way Jose!

    Pea: Always gives us something to talk about. Sadly I also think about it a lot.

    Sinusoidally: hmmm

    Jennifer: I have oft been told "If you don't like the weather in England, move" !?

    MumbaiGirl: The only good part about that is an addition to the wardrobe is usually a welcome thing - even if unplanned. As for winter being warm, what is the bet it'll be freezing?

    Shyam: Strangely I now prefer sweltering heat to dripping rain. I would prefer rain if it did so properly, with thunder lighting etc

    San: I have plenty better to do thank you very much! This is next month and look out the window, the weatherman is lying..

    Kiwilax: Here it seems to be just the one seasons this year: wet. As Indians are known to say: I feel for you!

    Parth: I sit by a window in an all window office - no choice there. Also my imagination aint that good!

    Noon: Thankyou

    SilentONe: Thankfully I have no hayfever so the heat suits me just fine!!

    MW: I leave a shwal at work year round to deal with sudden dreary-ness. I don't have layers so I don't feel what you do. I just feel stupid instead!

    Scrapqueen: I shall keep trying - that will be the test of Britishness if ever I (gasp) apply for a Brit passport.... And, Happy birthday....

    Anon Londonwali: Always best to be prepared!