Monday, August 15, 2005

Just A Typical Night Out at the Movies...

Outdoor festivals are all the rage here in Britain--this past week alone there were four of them, including Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Fruitstock, and The Grolsch Summer Set. I find their immense popularity rather puzzling given that this is a country where lack of rain is the exception, rather than the rule. (And no, the incessant rain is not a quaint, overblown stereotype but instead a harsh reality, although if you come to visit, those will probably be the nicest days we'll have all year, just so you'll have the opportunity to say with incredulity, "I don't know why you constantly complain about the weather, it's really not that bad here.")

But the British seem to pay no mind at all to this state of affairs and if anything, seem to blossom under conditions that would give normal people scurvy. Even their weather forecasters are unassailably perky as they dish up the daily dose of bad news. Witness BBC meteorological Carol Kirkwood, an insanely cheerful Scot who delivers the morning weather in chipper pink suits and a lilting Scottish accent that makes everything sound wonderfully enchanting and straight out of a postcard, even as she's gleefully trilling on about "the spitting rain out in the west country, the spot of fog descending over the southeast and the wet spells expected over the Midlands indefinitely." What did this woman possess that I didn't, enabling her to look out at all that gloom everyday and turn it into pink lemonade?

I was determined to find out, and what better way to do so than by dipping my toe into the puddles of one of the country's ubiquitous outdoor events? As I'm not much for crowds or porta-potties anymore given my claustrophobia and germ-aversion, I thought we'd ease into things by trying the more sedate venue of an outdoor movie. We'd tried to attend one the week prior on a beautiful Saturday evening, but it was sold-out, so this time, we did the smart thing and booked a week ahead. The movie was Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and the venue was lovely Kensington Gardens. I even convinced two friends to book advance tickets as well and suggested that we make a night of it by doing a picnic, which my friend Catherine generously agreed to cater (no doubt in mortal fear of my cooking).

It was beautiful the week leading up to the movie because naturally, we had a guest visiting. The morning of the movie dawned beautifully as well (or at least it was beautiful when I got up around 10:30) and then the sky became increasingly black and menacing, at which point it began to rain...and rain...and rain. Panicked, I rang Catherine, who'd already made her basil chicken salad and decided that we should just carry on as any self-respecting Brit would do. Right. So armed with our Hefty bag rain ponchos, a plastic tarp, jumbo-sized "brollies" and winter coats, we arrived at the movie venue. Which was deserted.

It really wasn't heartening as we looked around in dismay and the British chap tweaking the sound system told us we were "a courageous lot." What did it spell for the conditions if we were even heartier, or make that, more foolhardy, than the British themselves?

Nonetheless, it did clear up long enough for us to eat our delicious picnic and for the screening area to sparsely fill up with a few more courageous souls, some bearing pup tents, ski caps, and even bigger umbrellas than our own. Soon after this brief respite, it began to pour again but in true Carol Kirkwood spirit, with one of us even sporting a chipper pink ensemble, we decided to ignore it and soldier on. Maybe good weather really is in the eye of the beholder.