We are currently experiencing a heat wave here in the UK. I say ‘experiencing’ to avoid using words such as enjoying, suffering, or enduring, depending on your point of view. The weather forecasters tell us that today will almost certainly be another hot and dry one. This brings me to the rhyme and folklore associated with St Swithin (or Swithun) which suggests that whatever the weather is on 15th July, it will be the same for the next 40 days and nights.
"St Swithin's Day, if it does rain
Full forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
For forty days t’will rain no more”
Swithin was born in or around the year 800. He became Bishop of Winchester. He must have enjoyed the rain as he instructed that when he died, rather than being buried within Winchester Cathedral, he wanted to be outside in a simple tomb “where the sweet rain of heaven may fall upon my grave”.
Despite our love of folklore, we know that the predicted 40 consecutive days of rain or shine never happens. The meteorological office has confirmed that since records began there has never been a period of 40 dry or wet days following St Swithin’s Day.
So you may prefer the more pragmatic version of the rhyme…
If on St Swithin's day it really pours
You're better off to stay indoors!
That said, when it does eventually rain after all these days of hot weather, I for one might be tempted to take a leaf out of St Swithin’s book and stand in the garden and enjoy the sweet rain of heaven falling upon me.