St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare
St Swithun’s Day, 15th July, is commemorated in this weather folklore ditty. Whilst there are regional variations the sentiment remains the same. If it rains on 15th July it is likely to rain for the rest of the summer, but if it is fair it is likely to remain dry (note well – dry, not necessarily sunny!)
I am not sure how true the ditty really holds but there is a scientific basis to the weather pattern behind the legend of St Swithun’s day. Around the middle of July, the jet stream settles into a pattern which, in the majority of years, holds reasonably steady until the end of August. When the jet stream lies north of the British Isles then continental high pressure is able to move in; when it lies across or south of the British Isles, Arctic air and Atlantic weather systems predominate.
Whilst the fair weather is good for farmers trying to harvest certain crops and certainly good for campers (I speak from experience of camping in the rain) for most of us a mix of wet and dry days is probably best. Otherwise our hard work in the garden is put in jeopardy and hose pipe bans remind us how precious water really is in our lives.
Jesus also uses the image of the sun and rain when gently challenging us about our attitude to others, including those we think have done us wrong. Resentment is corrosive in our lives. It can be all embracing but Jesus offers us an alternative model that we would do well to heed all year round. In the middle of the wonderful Sermon on the Mount Jesus says: (Matthew 5:43)
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.