snafu (adj) : situation normal – all fouled up
Things were going really well with the WIP until the middle of December, when in the middle of the night I woke up in a sweat with the awful realization that the beginning of the WIP is in February, during a rainstorm. Why an awful realization? It occurred to me that I don’t even know if it rains in February in England, let alone showers. It is winter, right? They’re on an island, so maybe I can just get by with the assumption that the ocean keeps the island from getting too cold, thus allowing and encouraging a healthy February shower?
After allowing an hour of feverish plot contemplation, I decided I had to have it rain. Which either meant more research to discover what the weather was like in the Wantage/Swindon area of England during February 1887, or, change the timeline of the story. Since the story has to start in February, research became my only option.
Do you know how hard it is to look up 120 year-old weather patterns for a relatively obscure location? I stretched my Google-fu to the limits, searching everything from “UK weather archive” to “Swindon almanac feb 1887.” (My location is actually a small community relatively near Swindon, but that community is so small you might as well say it doesn’t exist on the internet.) After searching for an hour, I found two sources saying there was a December 1886 snowstorm in southern England so fierce that school was canceled, overhead telegraph lines and trees around London were felled, and Kent received 30cm snow (11.8 inches). My community would have experienced that snowstorm, then. But what about February 1887? What happened then?
I don’t suppose I ever mentioned how I love the internet, but I do. I found the UK meteorological office which states it rains one out of three days a year on average, and more often in the winter. Snow occurs more over hilly areas than by the sea, which is handy to know because my town is right by the Berkshire downs and White Horse Vale. Hill fog is extensive over hills and potentially dangerous to walkers. But lo! and behold, I found the historical record from Oxford, which is also relatively close to my town (if you’re generous)! One of the many wonderful reasons to set a historical fiction novel in England…they like to keep records. So now I know that in Oxford, during February 1887, the average high temperature was 7.5C (45.5F, so no snow), the average low was 0.5C (32.9F, which could result in snow), there were 17 air frost days, and the rainfall for the month was 15.2cm (about 5 inches).
I don’t know if that’s enough to say a rain shower occurred by my town, since Oxford is about 40mi north of where my novel is set. But hey, I have a weather pattern! And it’s plausible, in any case, that there was a rain shower, which…as I’m writing historical fiction, it only needs to be plausible, right?
What do you think? Should I continue the search, or work from this plausible assumption that it rained in February 1887? And am I the only one who does frantic searches so my plot is sound?