Erica and I ate our meal this evening at the kitchen table with the large french doors that give onto the garden flung wide. From time to time lightning jagged through the dark clouds over Harmergreen Wood on the ridge that lies between Robbery Bottom and Digswell. Thunder rumbled above and around, no great cracks and claps, but a general background grumbling.
Thunder reminds me of childhood fears during nighttime storms, when I would run through the darkened house to my mother?s bed, hoping, hoping that I would reach my safe haven before the next flash of lightning, the next rumble of thunder.
One night – I must have been 5 or 6 years old – I dreamed I was at the circus. The spotlights flashed and the drums rolled. They rolled so loudly that I woke up – to a thunderstorm. I scrambled for safety.
Thunder cloud coming in from the north west
One hot summer day in 1960, when I was 12, I was playing with friends outside in the grounds of Nevill Holt, my prep school (for those not familiar with the peculiarities of British education, a prep school is a school for children aged 7 or 8 to 13, with prepares them to go to ?public? school – that is to say, a private school for 13 to 18 year olds). Nevill Holt, a mediaeval manor house, was located on top of a hill and looked the valley of the River Welland towards Rockingham Castle in Northamptonshire. As we played that sultry afternoon, a strange murk slowly filled the valley below. We looked up from our games – tag, flying gliders, Jokari, French cricket – our attention drawn by crumping noises emanating from the sinister cloud. Thunder was coming, that was clear.
But the storm did not break until after lights out and we were in bed. I remember seeing luridly coloured clouds flying past, framed in the dorm?s large window. And then what a storm! Lightning entered an open window in the school?s swimming pool in what had been the stable block and lifted the tiles in the pool. It was a while before we could have our swimming sessions again.