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No, no, not the weather -- a cold and windy topic in Britain these days

Yes, yes, let's talk about the weather. -- Gilbert and Sullivan's ``Pirates of Penzance''

Is it April or is it February?

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The English, who have a penchant for discussing the weather, could be forgiven for wondering if the seasons have come in reverse.

If we just had the worst February in 40 years, and March came in and went out like a polar bear, then April promises to be nothing short of diabolical. The temperature, which seems to have a bad case of the Februaries, is falling rather than rising.

It must have something to do with the canny Scots, who have kept the warmer weather while sending us rubbish (hail, snow, and rain on a single April day).

What else could explain why the vast area of gray cloud, stuck just above London on the television weather maps, continually seems to rise and fall like a hippo wallowing in mud? No sooner does the bad weather look as though it is being chased northward to Scotland, than it falls back despondently, bringing the weather we thought we had said good riddance to the day before.

If the temperature were to soar to 50, I'd turn cartwheels. Sixty degrees is almost unimaginable, for it has not been experienced since last year.

``And I thought it was going to be better today,'' said a disappointed voice behind me on the train as the rain fell effortlessly. Every day, it seems, dark clouds hang like a heavy gray overcoat on the shoulders of the landscape.

A sun-watcher says she saw the sun come on the other day like a light bulb, then it switched off just as quickly.

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An American colleague said, even before it got worse, that he couldn't take it any more and was heading to Morocco for a week. Another journalist says she can't wait to return to the United States this summer. ``At least when it's cold there, the sun shines.''

Yet in spite of it all the English weathercasters breeze on with imperturbable cheerfulness. On a raw April day promising very cold temperatures and gale-force wind, the weatherman indicated that the ``winds would be picking up nicely.'' Nicely?

The result is that spring is way behind schedule. The daffodils that usually preen themselves in St. James Park in late February have finally made their entrance, but a goodly number stay in firm bud. The first daffodil in my garden opened slyly on April 1, but the joke was on me. It dawdled for four or five days, looking more like a half-opened umbrella, before showing its full face.

Now for the good news. The ducks are building their nests in St. James Park. Big twigs are being ferried by beak to the farthest flung branches of the willows that droop into the water, just far enough out to escape the curious reach of small boys.

Do the ducks in this wintery weather know something that we mere humans don't? Or is the message that we should get ready to become web-footed?

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