Spring appears to have sprung on the Silver Coast. Yellow flowers carpet the fields, Óbidos castle is bathed in light and sunbeams weave through the valley like spotlights at a movie premiere. That was yesterday. Today it is raining. It’s got to be spring.
I shall not, however, be discussing this with any of the parents I meet on the school run. Or any other local person I bump into today. I have made that mistake before and know the consequences. That quick flash of pity in their eyes, the glance away as they consider how best to respond and then the awkward, fumbled reply which confirms that weather was not a thing they had considered thinking about at all. But they’ll try anyway, because they are big hearted people and I obviously have nothing more interesting to say.
We get some pretty crazy weather round here in the winter. Winds that will knock you off your feet, massive waves, rain so heavy the day turns to night. Of course we want to talk about it. I just don’t do it with a Portuguese person anymore. They know what the weather’s like. They’re standing in the same place as I am. Weather only gets a look in on conversation when flood waters are cascading down the main road. Then, and only then, might they mention that it is wetter than usual this year.
Fortunately the Portuguese equivalent of the Met Office publishes a severe weather warning chart that unites those of us who think the weather is a perfectly acceptable topic of conversation among consenting adults. It goes from a benign green (pah, not worth talking about) to a dramatic red (quick, get the kids in the car – we may need to evacuate).
When this chart turns yellow the excitement starts to build. It gets posted on social media. Talked about by groups of weather-conscious expats. It doesn’t matter what it’s for. It could be floods, winds, waves, snow or the apocalypse. Who cares. What matters is that it is yellow. Yellow is second on the danger scale. Time to think about getting in vital supplies and boarding up the house. I admit to enjoying these times of drama, the anticipation of being gripped and shaken in the teeth of a raw and unforgiving nature. When it’s over I feel vaguely disappointed that it passed us by and left the house still standing.
But now that spring is coming it’s the end of all that excitement. The snow will go first, followed soon after by the waves, the floods and the gale-force winds. If the chart hits yellow or red in the next six months it will be for forest fires (another subject altogether) or the risk of sunburn. If it’s sunburn I’ll have something to talk about in the mornings. Everyone loves a good affliction. Top it off with a few other choice ailments and injuries and you’ll be talking for hours. Even in Portugal.