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on 18 March 2013
Richard Mabey is the best writer of Nature there has ever been, & he brings a refreshing outlook to an old subject. Mabey has spent his life on the trail of "weather phantoms", and thanks to this, Turned Out Nice Again is replete with such wonders: a Cornish wood that is tidal at the spring equinox, primroses temporarily flowering under the sea; a cave rainbow that flips over on its side to form a circle with a neighbour, the two surrounding him at chest level "like a fallen halo". But there are more ordinary delights here, too: a couple of children using the huge, rhubarb-like leaves of butterbur as umbrellas; a fledgling kingfisher that whirls by his boat on the Norfolk Broads and makes the day feel sunny even though it is not at all (for Mabey, a passing kingfisher is "a flash of fair-weather lightning"). He is not a winter man; as a depressive, its dinge makes him torpid and morose. But this doesn't mean that he doesn't thrill at the sight of a skater hissing across a frozen pond. As he looks on, the mud beneath his feet scrunches enjoyably "like creme brulee".
"There is really no such thing as bad weather," said Ruskin. "Only different kinds of good weather." Read Mabey, and you can almost believe the great man was right.
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This intriguing and affectionate look at the weather made me think of the varied weather we experience in the UK in a somewhat different manner. The author looks briefly at the way the weather affects how we feel - dark days make us feel quiet and depressed, sunny days cheer us up and strong winds make some people feel on edge.

The weather has a huge effect on our daily lives and it is something we all talk about. A comment on the weather is often the first thing we say to people after we say hello. It is because our weather is so varied that we find it such a common topic of conversation. Our memory of weather events which we personally witnessed tends to be selective. For example many people remember the hot summer of 1976 but far fewer remember the equally hot summer of 1975.

The author quotes from various diarists such as Francis Kilvert and Gilbert White who both made a point of mentioning the weather in their work. I enjoyed reading this little book which is written in an easy and entertaining style and it reminded me that we often confuse weather with climate. I also learned of a phenomenon which I have never seen or heard of before - moon rainbows. I shall now be looking out for them if there is bright moonlight and rain showers - an uncommon combination.
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This is a slight - about 80 small pages - but nonetheless worthwhile consideration of weather, our relationship with it and eventually our impact on it.

If you are already a fan of the writing of Richard Mabey this will be a very familiar read. It contains sections of introspection, mainly about depression and mental illness, beautifully observed sections about the fine detail of the countryside and (in my opinion) a slightly too reverential approach to a small group of authors - in this case Gilbert White is singled out.

If you are not a fan - or if you are coming fresh to his work - this is about as good an introduction as you could get.

It could be read in a single sitting of less than an hour and leave you asking for more.

My only concern is that on two occasions Mabey seems to conflate meteorological and geological phenomenon. He identifies the climate of the UK to be generally benign - citing a lack of volcanoes or tsunamis. And he identifies a "halcyon day" as being caused (at least partly) but the incoming tide flowing over a bottle of wine. None of these is in any way a weather (or even climate) related event. This struck me as unfortunate.

With the exception of the point in the last paragraph, I would highly recommend this book - just don't take on a train journey that last more that 40 minutes!
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on 5 July 2013
I love Richard Mabey's writing but half way through the first chapter I was already distracted into looking for the next proof-reading error. His publishers, Profile, should be ashamed of themselves. Do they think that readers don't care about such details? I can assure them that we do. I shall persevere, but with a less reputable writer I would have given up.
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on 21 August 2013
There is something delightfully comforting about this dear little book with its 1940s-style cover. The charmingly gentle style in which it is written – by Richard Mabey (our quietest national treasure) – makes it the perfect slim volume for reading in the garden this summer. I have also given two copies as presents.
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on 25 March 2013
Really very disappointed with this having enjoyed Mabey's previous books. It's very slight and shallow with nothing more than a few googled quotes and personal reminiscences. He tells us he lives in East Anglia umpteen times but very little about weather patterns, trends or extremes and it barely adds up to 100 pages. Poorly edited too with several mistakes and misprints. Such a wasted opportunity! Ckme on Mabey and Profile. You can do better than this!
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My daughter bought me this book as a birthday present, correctly perceiving a new-found interest in the weather arising from my having recently started work for the national organization which is devoted to understanding that elusive phenomenon. It's a lovely book, and the variety and depth of its contents belie its size (only 90 small pages). Mabey draws on the weather observations of writers like Flora Thompson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and (mostly) Gilbert White, whose journals contain "spare, glittering miniatures that often have the depth and rhythm of hiaku", for example: "31 March, 1768: Black weather, Cucumber fruit swells, Rooks sit" [p14]. He supplements these with his own detailed recollections of notable stories in the continuous stream of weather events, such as seeing a ferocious downpour liquefy a decaying beech tree: "The rain was hammering drills of water at the already rotting trunk, and flakes of bark, fungal ooze, barbecued dregs from the lightning-charred heartwood began to drip on to the woodland floor like thick arboreal soup." [p5].

Elsewhere he explores the links between the weather and our feelings, and the way in which the latter can affect our memories of the former (everyone recalls the UK summer of 1976 as sweltering, for example, but few recall that that of the previous year was just as hot and prolonged). He's a very good writer, but I think his description on p79 of a state of prolonged instability and chaos as a "state of reductio ad absurdum" is misleading; although it means "reduction to absurdity", that expression is invariably used as the name of a common form of argument.
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on 6 July 2013
This is a charming little book about the relationship between the British and the weather; the title is the greeting that two strangers will normally exchange rather then hello.

It is a very short book, on 90 pages, and it is split into five chapters. He writes about the exceptional weather moments that we have had, and also the mundane. We can go from snow one week in June, to balmy weather a week later. In the past he has suffer from depression, which he wrote about in his book Nature Cure, and he explores the way that weather can affect mood and emotion, and how even a wrong forecast can.

Even though it is short, consider it a distillation of the writers art.
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on 9 February 2014
Mabey is a favourite author of mine and I already own several of his books, and thought this would be a lovely addition to the collection. Written in his usual manner and very enjoyable, but the book is short in content, though still worth purchasing.
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on 6 July 2013
A wonderful book about the weather, nature, moods, literature, painting and language. Weather, we learn is so much more than metereology - we are affected by it in so many ways. Thus, it makes us feel part of a wider pattern. It's a wonderfully evocative book, conjuring up halcyon days (and explaining the name thereof),sometimes funny, sometimes serious, meandering around the vagaries of the weather. My only wish was it should have been longer! Most enjoyable.
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