Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

Rain. It is the same everywhere, isn’t it? Madrid, Sâo Paulo, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Johannesburg. No matter what your surroundings look like, what the geometry of your town, village or city is, or the size of the buildings that populate the main avenue, rain remains unchanged.

Well, guess what, you’re wrong.

Not wrong from an objective point of view. The same condensation process takes place all over the world. The same aqueous vapour that forms in the atmosphere before plummeting to earth in the shape of fat drops occurs in all the aforementioned cities. But it’s the subjective, the unbidden subjective interpretation of rain that renders this phenomenon distinctive.

A few hours ago (on the day of writing this post) I went out for a run. It had been more than a month since I last had jogged. The storms sweeping across the UK put paid to any notion I might have had of nipping out for my usual seven-mile run. But today we had a glorious afternoon in London and I felt like doing my longer circuit; ten miles and sixty yards in total.

Halfway through my run the skies opened. To my amazement, to the west the sun still shone brilliantly, whereas to the east (where I was headed) the rain was coming down hard with a vengeance. I could have done a left turn there and then and headed back home. It was still a bit of a jog, about a mile and a bit, but at least I knew I would be dry in minutes as opposed to getting soaked to the skin.

I got soaked to the skin. I carried on running, not only out of enjoyment (I was going at a good, steady pace and the music pumping into my ears was the right one) but also out of the magic this unpredicted rain produced out of its wet sleeve. Sorry, London, the Southeast and Britain: this rain was not British.

This rain was Cuban, or at least tropical.

This was not the rain that has kept pumps working overtime in the last three or four months, the kind that has left cars stranded and made people mutter under their breath: “Oh, bloody 'ell, not again!”. No, this was rain in Technicolor, throwing shapes around as if one were on an LSD trip (which I have never undertaken, mind).

The rain in which I got caught a few hours ago was not cold (we had 14 degrees in London today for the first time in ages, unusual for February). This rain had a warm muzzle with which it poked me gently on my ribs. This rain had “home” written all over the sleeveless T-shirt it was wearing.

What I saw in this downpour was my birth city in my adopted one. Home in home. As I pounded the pavement the scenery around me changed and a sense of randomness took over. Like a film set where leading and supporting actors, extras, the crew and the director mill about and move aimlessly in between shots, the objects and people around me as I ran looked as if they had been scooped up by a giant hand and thrown back down like pick-up sticks. In my delirium (what else to call it?) I heard glasses half-filled with Havana Club cincoañejo rum (the better one) clinking and dominoes being shuffled. I saw a postman stopping right under a balcony and screaming out: “¡Carmencita, telegramaaaaaaaaaaa!”, raindrops falling off his moustache. A couple of children, feet swimming in their oversized shoes, approached me and asked me: “Mi tío, can you get us the ball that went over the fence, please?” The bluesy, funky music on my mp3 player was replaced by the sound of conga drums, hand-clapping and a Spanish guitar. This was not London's February winter rain, but Havana's May’s first spring shower, the one you allow yourself to get caught in because it brings you good luck. The one where the sky parts in two; one side sunny, the other one rainy. I was soaked in the rain; I also was soaked in voices, sounds, rhythms and pregones.

I ended my run an hour and thirty-five minutes later. By then it had begun to let up. A slight drizzle saw me to my front door. To the west the sun was still shining. Sorry, London, the Southeast and Britain, the rain that had just assaulted my senses was not British. I had just had a Havana moment. Or at least a tropical one.

© 2014

Photo by Keith Cardwell.

Next Post: “Pieces of Me, Pieces of Havana”, to be published on Wednesday 5th March at 11:59pm (GMT)


27 comments:

  1. nice... on my bike rides to work i've been surprised by a few downpours and sometimes the rain is just pure magic and i just could bike on in the rain forever...smiles...the only think i worry about is that my iphone gets wet...ha..

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  2. What a lovely post. You're right; all rain isn't the same. In Seattle, Washington, it rains more often than it doesn't, but it's usually more of a constant misty drizzle. Here in Georgia where we live, it sometimes rains in ferocious downpours that some of the locals call "gully washers" or "frog stranglers." Not fun to drive in, but fun to watch. Those long soaking steady rains that awaken delicious shades of green are life-giving, and a joy to walk in. (Or run... but YOU can do the running: I'll slow it down a bit.) When I was a young girl, that's when we'd wash the car. In the rain. Seems a little silly, but it was fun.

    One of my favorite quotes about rain comes from a 113-year-old man, when he was asked for the secret to his longevity. He said, "When it rains, I let it."

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  3. What an enchanting post. I love the idea of the weather bringing Cuba to London! It really tickles me.

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  4. Cuando se sale a dar un paseo o a correr siempre a uno le vienen buenos pensamientos a parte de coger salud.
    Muy buen post, con un abrazo.

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  5. Cubano, i am misty-eyed and almost speechless, what poetry. grand.

    gracias, hermano, ache' pa' ti,
    y que llueva cafe.

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  6. Yeah it does go from place to place. But you know don't think too much about rain as in the end every drop of it has come out of a person or animal at some point in history, awesome, right? lol

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  7. willie! nice...
    there are def places that to me are known by particular weather...glad yours brought you a feel of home and cuba....i dont mind the rain when it is gentle...its beautiful here today..about to get out in it...

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  8. What a wonderful, joyous post. Rain isn't just rain. It varies in intensitity, in temperature, in scent. And, in our very dry frequently drought stricken area, is always welcome.
    I am in awe at your run and time too.

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  9. Thanks for your lovely comments.

    I'm chuckling as I write this. I went for run a while ago and it began to rain (again!). This rain was not like the one described in my post. This was proper British rain! :-) And I did the left turn, went down the road I wrote about in my post and came back home earlier than I wanted. Still it was only a drizzle but it was quite cold, no warmth at all.

    Have a great week ahead.

    Greetings from London.

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  10. Ah, a wee bit of nostalgia is so good for the soul. Your Cuban rain reminds me of rain in New Mexico on a summer day.

    Greetings from Portland.

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  11. What a special feeling! Glad you encountered such rain. Greetings from the wet Northwest USA, home of 160 inches of rain, bloated rivers and impassable summits. (Rain turns to snow easily when landing at 1000 feet or so.)

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  12. Sounds delicious! It is so strange how memories are triggered--and here the universe is pulling on your sleeve--or dampening it. Thanks also for the Homeward Bound. Take care, k.

    P S - wonderful writing. k.

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  13. Sounds like a pretty good run. Rain is cleansing when not cold that is! Seven miles is a long run!

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  14. You are (or were) homesick, CiL. The sight and sound and feel of a torrential rain pounding on your body triggered memories and brought your inner desires to the surface.

    I am sort of teasing while being sort of serious. Running is like being in an alternative universe in terms of an individual's mind, it seems to me. The mind goes places while running that it generally will not go while doing things which require deeper thought and concentration. Running frees the mind to wander.

    I thought your vignette flowed with the grace of a long-distance runner's strides. Running often has elegance to it, just as does writing. This was very enjoyable to read.

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  15. Very nice post, Cuban -- and I've read it at just the right time. Here in Los Angeles, it rained, finally, after a seriously long time and we got more water in a few hours than we'd had in the previous eight months! When my children were young, being native Angelenos, they'd greet rain as if it were a very strange substance coming from the sky.

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  16. Loved this post, Cuban. I used to love the rain but not so much now I'm older and begrudge getting wet!

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  17. I used to adore rain...couldn't wait to race outside and get soaking wet...it's just that, recently, this over abundance of the stuff has become a little "too much of a good thing"!!

    I love the idea of the weather bringing Cuba to London!
    It suggests worldwide interconnection...such a fabulous feeling...:)

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  18. I am so wanting some Colorado rain.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this post, thank you.

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  19. yes, ha ha!

    We ran in Honolulu's rain this weekend. . . a tropical moment

    Shared with you, Friend


    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    =^..^=

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  20. thats kind of cool and fun for you :-)

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  21. lovely post, amazing how weather can evoke memories of other places

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  22. I love rain Cil and I know you had so much rain this year but I think rain is a bless and missed it!
    Here in santiago we have had dry years the last time and rain is absolutely something all we need:)

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  23. Wow, you made up for lost time running! I hope you weren't too sore the next day. I'm impressed that you kept going in the downpour. I would have been tempted to hop on the tube. I wouldn't have thought of rain as a similarity between Cuba and England, but it makes sense. Perhaps water is your element. I wonder if mine in snow.

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  24. Thanks for your kind comments. I am a water sign, as it happens, so, maybe that was the connection. :-)

    Greetings from London.

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  25. Reminds me of the rainstorms in the spring and summer where I live. I live directly across the street from a mountain and when the rainstorms hit, you really do feel a kinship with the mountain/nature in all of its glory.

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