Samuel Johnson famously remarked, ‘It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know.’ Virginia Woolf politely added that Englishwomen also talk about the weather but thought there should be strict rules attached to all such discussions. A hostess or a novelist might talk about the weather to settle a guest or a reader, but they should move swiftly on to more interesting themes. A novel that considers nothing but the weather was most probably written by Arnold Bennett (I paraphrase). Mark Twain took this further, promising in the opening of The American Claimant that ‘no weather will be found in this book’ as ‘it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author’.
Yet we cannot escape the weather and people constantly write and speak about it, defying Twain and Woolf. This pandemic is like the weather, an implacable force that we can’t avoid; it’s abysmal, and the weather can be abysmal as well. Certainly it’s plotless, despite our best efforts, and this