What the Wind Blew in: Abbotsbury, UK

Was it revenge for my pretending to be a salesman of fine Georgian wines over the phone, he not recognizing me at all? Or was it simply innocently inviting me to participate in what he normally does on such weather-disaster days: go out in them? I may never know. I’m too afraid to ask.

In any case, I did accompany a couple of my longest-standing friends on a drive and then a “jaunt” from the village of Abbotsbury, on the south-west English coast, to the miles of mysteriously, perfectly graduated-size pebbles of Chesil Beach. In gale-force winds and horizontal rain, to boot. Just for the fun of it, and for the promise of hot coffee in a pub if we survived it. If.

A taxi driver had complained that we Brits are feeling an inferiority complex over getting hardly any hurricanes or tornadoes at all, and thus decided to start personalizing our stronger storms, starting with A-names, last autumn. And here we were with Imogen, only a few months later, wreaking her vengeance on the South-West for unspecified insults: winds up to 90 miles an hour and more, rain, snow, sleet, power cuts, falling trees, people getting swept out to sea. Why not go out in that?!

I had a choice of either my Svaneti-grade winter boots, or some below the ankle leather smart shoes; only a single choice of outerwear in a thick wool coat, but with plenty of layers underneath. I went with the shoes. The wind announced its presence as we opened the car doors in the otherwise wisely abandoned car park, but we felt committed now, and bravely launched out into it.

Unable to hear one another over the howl, we stuck close together for visual reference—at least, when the rain wasn’t shutting our eyes with its pellet-gun emulations. And we all leaned over into the headwind, although it was only 60 mph at the time, so as to move forwards at all. I had to take my flat cap off most of the time to avoid losing it altogether, which would be a shame as it was pure cashmere, picked up for a song in a Mestia second-hand shop, sales lady blissfully unaware. (See how many Svaneti references I can cram into anything? It’s in my blood!)

Only a mile, they said. In this? It felt like a marathon through treacle!

Arriving eventually at the Beach, we were greeted by 20-foot high waves defying gravity and attempting to reach earth escape velocity. More stinging rain, which could only be worsened if it turned to hail; this would have gone through us instead of merely bruising our exposed faces. Mercifully, no malevolent God of Weather heard my thoughts and decided to act upon them. Because I’m writing this, we did indeed survive. I shot no photos, even on my cell-phone, simply because I could not do justice to the roaring spectacle with a still image. I did, however, shoot about 40 seconds of video, because that could render some understanding of our ordeal for the viewer. By the time you read this, there will be a link to the uploaded video on my guest house Facebook page, see below.

The pub coffee soon thawed our numb heads out, enabling us to step back from the hypothermically-induced hibernation to which we were about to surrender. And it gave me time to pause and think: Are only British people this mad (insane, I mean) about their weather?

Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1250 members, at


He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


Tony Hanmer

18 February 2016 21:23