Always take the weather with you

I should have known.

Wading my way across the sodden South Downs, head bowed in the face of gale-force winds and driving rain, it should have been blindingly obvious that the inclement conditions weren’t down to it being the dead of winter.

Those storms that have battered the UK for the last month or so aren’t a consequence of clashing weather systems in the Atlantic.

No, it’s all down to gay marriage. Or equal marriage, if you will.

I can’t even be bothered mocking the stupidity of a world view that links climate and weather to legislation that will only directly affect those who actually get married (as far as I’m aware, the new law won’t force same-sex couples to remove flood defences or do a nightly rain dance).

And why should I bother with mocking when Twitter is already doing it so well?

There’s yer actual UKIP right there in one gloriously ludicrous outburst. Remember that next time blokey Nige is smirking on Question Time and demanding the UK quits the EU (while he simultaneously fills his pockets with as much swag as he can get away with while he’s an MEP).

But enough of such idiocy.

It’s a new year and my first blog of 2014 really has to be a bit more upbeat than metaphorically throwing my hands up in exasperated fashion.

This January I’m looking a bit further ahead to the spring and a deal I’ve made with myself – to complete the book I started last summer. Typically for me, I began the project in enthusiastic fashion, writing around 26,000 words in six weeks and getting totally immersed in a story I have been waiting my whole life to tell.

And then stuff got in the way. A much-needed holiday disrupted my writing routine. On our return, the dog walking business suddenly got a whole lot busier while another essential job now eats up my evenings and half of my weekends. Those lazy summer afternoons furiously writing in the garden while Alfie and chums lazed on the grass have faded as fast as the sunshine.

As Christmas approached, I suddenly realised I hadn’t committed a single word to paper since early October.

Something has to be done.  As someone who performs better with a deadline hanging over her head, I’ve set myself a deadline of March 29 for finishing the book. The date is significant because it’s the 44th anniversary of the day my family’s lives were changed forever.

I need to keep my promise not only to myself but also to my uncle, to my siblings and to my wider family that I will chronicle this incredible story.

And because I know what a captivating, remarkable tale it is, I’m going to share a little bit of it in here.

Knowing a small part of it is already out there will be even more of a spur to me to complete this venture.

Right, better crack on, I’ve got a book to finish.

Hotter than July

An Indian summer they’re calling it. What the insanely cheerful telly weather people really mean is this is the weather we should have had in June, July and August. It’s just inconveniently turned up in late September.

Which is fine if this is the weather you’re expecting and you hadn’t – like me – already packed away the garden furniture and barbie after last month’s gales and torrential rain. The grass is still bloody growing and needing cut every week too. On the plus side, the remains of the (potted) vegetable garden have undergone something of a revival in the last week and Debbie’s tomatoes (oh stop sniggering at the back) look and taste delish.

What now passes for my workplace

Weather – there’s an awful lot of it about. And I seem to be in the middle of it, all the time.

I realise at this point, dear reader, you are ready to nominate me for a Statement of the Bleeding Obvious Award – after all, you’re saying, what the hell did you expect, woman?! You swapped an office for trudging up and down beaches and hills. With dogs. The weather COMES WITH THE TERRITORY!

Well, okay, there’s no need to shout. My point – and I do have one – is that my first ‘summer’ in the job has confused me in what an appropriate wardrobe sense. No change there then …

I am rarely - ahem - less 'comfortable' than this, hat notwithstanding

I have never been a gal who’s been interested in fashion – if you must, think Calamity Jane before the ‘darn crick’ makeover.

Jeans and T-shirts/shirts out of work, trousers and shirts (never blouses) in work – not for nothing did my late mother, stylish to the end, sigh in long suffering fashion and raise her eyebrows heavenwards whenever I appeared. Never mind Trinny & Susannah, my mum made it her life’s life work to tell me exactly What Not To Wear with one pointed look and a hand gesture that told her all was lost.

Obviously jeans and T-shirts are de rigeur among the dog walking fraternity (or should that be maternity? Most of them seem to be women). And it’s attire that’s perfectly adequate. Most of the time. Or at least some of the time. But no good in certain conditions – like when it’s particularly hot (jeans are horribly heavy and lead to thigh chafing) or a bit chilly (T-shorts are no protection against wind on the South Downs or beaches) or really wet (wet jeans cling to your ice-cold legs until you lose all feeling from the waist down and have to peel them off in the back garden like a particularly plump and inept stripper).

The very weather conditions, in fact, in which Lead On has been operating these last few months.

I’ve experimented with other outfits, notably shorts on those days when it was actually ridiculously hot (there have been 2 of ’em … until this week). But in shorts and stout walking shoes, I look like Dawn French as George in the Comic Strip’s rather brilliant spoof of the Famous Five. So I’d really rather not. And I don’t think the good people of West Sussex deserve that sight anyway.

Fran goes mad in Sussex

My new go-to store is Sports Direct for its cheap selection of sporty trousers – yes, there are no depths to which I will not sink. Worse than that, I even invested in some Wundaweb so I could hem my new ‘golfing’ trousers myself (as an official short arse, there isn’t a pair of trousers I buy that don’t need taken up).

And don’t think I’ve been fooled by the so-called Indian summer. By next week, it will be bloody Baltic again as the rain lashes off the windows and I’ll be back rooting around the waterproofs racks, searching for the perfect trews that offer comfort, protection and – importantly – style.

Only kidding about that last bit. As if I would let a little something like style get in the way of a comfort fit.

So the search for the perfect dog walking outfit goes on. I’d like to say I’ll keep you posted but something tells me you won’t actually care.

In the meantime, the mercury is nudging 25C and I’m thinking these acrylic mix joggies I found at the bottom of a suitcase might chafe a smidge when I take Alfie down the beach in a mo …

Och don’t you lot start with the What Not To Wear!