I had frowned watching the afternoon’s gathering storm clouds from the safety of a warm office on Tuesday, anxiously exclaiming to colleagues that I did not want to get caught in a downpour, particularly as I was just recovering from a raw, sore throat. As soon as I stepped out into the energising, storm-taut air, I realised my perspective had been skewed by comforting warmth and protective glass.
As I approached my bicycle the first drops began to fall – heavy, intermittent, and full of the promise of more soul-quenching, healing rain to come.
My smile widened.
I hurried to unlock the chain, strap on my helmet, pull on my gloves… and the first tiny hail-stones began to ping off my handlebars.
I laughed out loud, a heady and delighted burst of joy.
I had spoken earlier in the day about the vivid memory of riding through a summer storm a few years ago, riding home through London’s streets as I was about to do once again; how the hail had stung my exposed skin and made every cell in my body feel fully alive. Now I wished I wasn’t so carefully protected from the chilly nip of spring, with no vulnerable skin to be thrilled by rain or hail.
I seemed to weave in and out of the storm, catching new bursts of it at Islington Green, Old Street, and Whitechapel. When I arrived at Dunbar Wharf, on the banks of the Thames, I was in sunshine and beginning to grow hot, so I stopped to remove my jacket and gloves, and turned to look back at the City.
My breath caught and then I laughed again, wishing desperately I had my camera with me to capture the beauty of the moment, but knowing I would need to rely on memory and a low-pixel phone camera instead.
Back-lit by glowing gold sunshine, I could see soft sheets of grey rain weaving across the horizon, while towards Greenwich the skies were blue and the cumulous clouds white and buoyant.
The tide was in, and the spray flew up from splashing steps, the water seething with energy and spirit, reigniting my longing to be upon it in a light kayak, feeling the pull of the tide and the bounce of the waves.
I continued chasing the storm, a wide grin on my face as I shrugged off losses and limitations and delighted in being just me, just there – wanting absolutely nothing more or less than just to be.
I caught another burst of rain in Greenwich, as I emerged from the foot tunnel; yet another as I crested the hill in Greenwich Park, and a flurry of hail crossing Blackheath, this time feeling it tingle on my now-exposed hands. A long growl of thunder rolled across the hills behind me as I arrived at my front door, and my smile widened one final, contented time before I stepped into the warmth and busy bustle of home.