DAMN. Where did I put the car keys? They are not on the customary hook. Nor are they in the front door. Or in yesterday’s trouser pocket.

I have been particularly sensitive to answering this perennial question since last week when Ree lost hers and phoned me as I was in the car, heading north up the M5, to report she couldn’t go to work without finding them (my advice to think back to the time she last had them in minute detail going unheeded). In spite of the astronomic costs of fuel, I stopped at the next service station and, when I came to pay, discovered something in my jacket pocket. You guessed it. Memory plays some strange tricks on you, especially at your diarist’s advanced years.

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So if I can’t remember short-term details, I compensate by being able to recall, with astounding accuracy, the words of song lyrics from decades ago. And today, a dark and wet dawn had me humming a song from the 1960s. “Rain, rain, rain,” it began, and went on to give an account of the Old Testament meeting between God and Noah of Noah’s Ark fame. “It’s gonna rain,” went the lyrics, the result of mankind’s bad behaviour.

All this has an immediate resonance with the predictions of climate change which have sadly gone off the agenda when faced with Ukraine, football, tax affairs in Government and that old faithful, COVID-19. Is it really going to rain? Or is it more likely to dry up?

We have the immediate prospect of energy prices going through the roof, but just take a moment to concentrate on imagining what the world will be like without water. We managing existing and new woods and forests must have a clear appreciation of the dangers and realities of wildfires – indeed, we’ve seen what can and will happen in a drier, hotter climate.

Most of us in forestry have tales to tell about getting wet in the course of our daily tasks. One of my more vivid experiences was some years ago in the middle of Eire. As an aside, I have always liked the Irish word for forests, ‘coillte’, pronounced ‘cwilsha’. Sounds like it’s part of the culture!

Well, regardless of the weather forecast for heavy showers, I set off from a nice hotel in Mulingar for an early-morning inspection of suitable plantable land nearby. The landscape was flat, the soil peaty, and the whole site intersected by deep drains, half full of water.

The kind of site to grow Sitka of remarkable energy. But as I plodded through the molinia, the sky suddenly darkened and well, blow me down (or something), there came a great flash of lightning too close for comfort and an almost immediate crash of thunder.

The only likely conductor of all this electricity was the only item to protrude above the ground surface – me. I slid down the drain as the rain reached Old Testament levels and there I remained, wet but non-conductive for perhaps half an hour, the storm departing as quickly as it had arrived. I then climbed out, a sorry figure as I drove back to my hotel. 

“Would it be at all possible,” I stammered to the nice girl in reception, “For me to take a bath?” She a was totally un-phased by my appearance and somewhat unusual request.

“Ah, sure, sir,” she replied. “Here’s the key to room 21. And you’ll find towels and all that by the bath. Will you be taking breakfast?” Great people, the Irish. It’s all part of their culture. That and YC 28 Sitka. But better to be boiled than fried, I concluded, over a pint of the black stuff that evening. A lucky escape. And I see that whatever the change to the climate in the intervening years, today it is still the Emerald Isle, and it’s still raining.

When Mulingar goes brown and crumbly, then we’ll really need to take notice. And hold the front page from the Russians, viruses and political scandals.

At a more mundane level, most of us have experienced the effects of weather in a less dramatic way. We’ve found out rainwater and diesel fuel (or any other kind of fuel for that matter) don’t mix. We’ve learned not to drive fast through deeply flooded public roads and we have seen our planting efforts decimated by a dry spring. That’s normal.

As is searching for car keys, or the TV zapper.

Noah’s experiences of rain and flooding eventually came to an end. The rain stopped and the Lord showed him a rainbow sign, with the message “14  days of fire next time”. You have been warned!