With the country in the grip of the wettest summer since records began, where better for a pint than Manchester, Britain’s most famously rainy city? True to form, it starts pissing down just after my train passes Stoke-on-Trent, and by the time I dump my soggy umbrella on the floor of the pub, the heavens are demonstrating an effortless command of “torrential”.
The Rain Bar – where else? – is a welcome refuge. “It used to be an umbrella factory,” explains Geoff. I bet it did a roaring trade.
“It’s not always like this,” apologises Ian. “It’s been quite dry lately. We’re unfairly tarred with the rainy brush. It’s a popular misconception.”
Geoff was born in the Midlands and he can’t remember the weather being any better there.
“Actually,” he says, “statistically Manchester is dryer than Bristol and Glasgow, but more cloudy than Runcorn and Blackpool. Really, we should be known for being cloudy. When it rains here, we get showers or gentle drizzle. London gets intense rain.”
There may not be any more rain in Manchester than the rest of the country, but there are clearly more amateur meteorologists.
Nuala thinks the climate is definitely getting worse. Ian, on the other hand, expresses the unfashionable belief that it’s nothing to do with human activity. “We’d be underwater in 1,000 years anyway,” he states. “The poles would still be melting if we hadn’t been here.”
“Not to this extent!” argues Nuala. “We’ve never had a June like this.”
Undaunted, Ian continues: “It’s a knee-jerk reaction. It’s good to talk about saving energy – and we do a lot of work on that,” he adds hastily, “but there’s a perception that we can stop climate change, and we can’t.”
Geoff thinks the growing population is a worry. “It’s over six billion now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it reached nine. Nobody’s suggested doing something about the humans …”
There’s only so much carbon in the world, says Paul, and you can’t destroy matter. “Someone once worked out that everyone’s got a bit of Shakespeare in them,” he adds, randomly.
Geoff’s heard that microbes can be genetically modified to make petrol. “Well, if there isn’t enough petrol and too many people, maybe we should put the surplus humans in a vat …” Ian muses, to the shock of his colleagues.
“Are you sure this is Carlsberg?” he asks, peering into his glass.
Talk turns to buildings on cemeteries as Paul once did a development on a plague pit. “You don't want to dwell on these things,” says Geoff.
“Once you realise, you don’t watch reruns of Poltergeist,” says Ian, darkly. Everyone shivers.
Chosen watering hole: Rain bar, central Manchester
Ambience: A cosy place to dry out
Topics: Rain, climate change, genocide and ghosts
Drinks: 4 pints of Carlsberg, 2 pints of Guinness, 2 pints of bitter, 2 sparkling waters and a white wine spritzer
Paul Kenyon managing partner, Manchester
Geoff Carter civil/structural partner
Nuala Morris specialist lighting engineer
Colin Bennett specialist fire engineer
Ian Crook principal services engineer
Katie Puckett Building