Here’s one reason to live in Essex:
Another is that it is the driest place in the UK. That distinction belongs specifically to St Osyth, just up the coast from where the photo above was taken, but all of North Essex is fairly dry. One of my clearest memories of university is that it never rained – which can’t be true, of course, but it certainly rained less than it does in, say, Sydenham.
My other main weather-related memory of Essex, not including the one with the bottles of wine and the icy slope (it was, at least, cheap wine, the Co-op’s Vin De Pays Catalan at £2.49 a bottle being our staple in those days) is that it was very windy. Partly that’s because we were close to the sea, and partly it’s because the original undergraduate accommodation at Essex University consisted of six tower blocks (the tallest unreinforced brick structures in the country, we were told, thrillingly – so high that, less thrillingly, there was no fire engine in Essex with a ladder long enough to reach the top storeys). Here they are looming over the landscape from a couple of miles’ distance:
The way the towers were arranged – especially the four north towers, where I lived – meant that as you walked between them you were constantly buffeted by the most extraordinary winds; winds so strong and unrelenting that just leaving the building was an adventure. I have vague memories of late-night experiments with raincoats stretched out to their fullest extent in an attempt to create sails that would lift us into the air, though why we thought that was a good idea I am no longer clear. It never worked as well as we hoped it would, fortunately.
Anyway, the wind was exciting, and even when it was cold and sharp you didn’t have to wear any protective clothing and as soon as you were inside you felt alright again. Wind is not like rain, which seeps inside everything and makes the whole day miserable, unless you go out in something waterproof, which means airproof, which means sweaty. I don’t ever remember as much rain as we had between April and July this year – I expect even Essex got wet – and rain is wretched.
In contrast, the sparkling September sunshine of the last few days has been glorious, carrying it does the slight chill which promises bonfires and fireworks and roast dinners and Sunday walks through piles of crunchy leaves. Autumn is the best season. Spring and autumn are both full of promises, but only autumn always delivers on them, because there is supposed to be rain in autumn and winter, so nobody minds when it happens. Best of all, autumn is when you buy new boots. I am currently lusting after these:
If you spot a version which doesn’t cost £325, please let me know.