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Break a Drought

This is an entry in the 2007 How To Contest. Please take a moment to vote on this and the other entries

As I lay in my bath tonight, listening to the rain on the roof and bemoaning my bad luck, it occurred to me that luck, good or bad, had nothing to do with it. This was no less than a gift.

I am a drought breaker. More accurately, I, my family and friends are drought breakers.

In these times of widespread water shortage, I cannot in good conscience kept this revelation to myself.

I must pass on this gift.

However, before I do, I should add this one little disclaimer: I am used to working with the Australian rain gods. I know their foibles, their likes and dislikes. You may need to fine-tune this valuable information to suit your individual climactic deities.

There are some universally known methods of bringing minor downpours.

The best known of these is to wash your car, preferably inside and out and wax it as well. This must be done by hand; running the car through the automatic carwash will not work. Effort is required to get the desired result.

To add an almost ironclad guarantee to the upcoming precipitation, it would help if you need to travel over road works immediately after standing back to admire the gleaming clean machine before you.

Airing quilts, blankets and other heavy bedding is also a sure fire rain bringer but only if you hang said items out and then leave the house for the day. You will return home exactly ten minutes too late to bring them in before they are soaked.

These methods will sometimes bring a good fall. More usually, they will result in enough rain to wash the dust off the roof and give the grass the will to grow past mowing height rather than a good steady drought-breaking downpour.

For that kind of rain, you need to drag out the big guns.

To truly excite the rain gods, organise an outdoor celebration. One that cannot be cancelled at the last minute and rescheduled.

The absolute best of these is a wedding.

I have been involved in four outdoor weddings that were particularly memorable for their effect on the climate.

At my own, the rain — a torrential tropical style cloudburst — began five minutes before the park ceremony was to begin. The rain ceased an hour later, with minor flooding. I was married, not surrounded by flowers and smiling well-wishers in a park, but surrounded by poker machines and bedraggled, steaming grumpy folk in a club.

A friend chose a beautiful rotunda in a park overlooking the ocean. It wasn't so nice in a 30-knot gale with the rain driving in diagonally from the sea.

My niece nearly gnawed her (fake) fingernails off on her wedding day as the showers came and went and came back again. She did manage to be wed in a rose garden, with a sinking feeling as her high heels bogged in the mud.

Then there was the country couple who were married under the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the rain fell, the celebrant pausing as trains rattled overhead. The reception was held on a tall ship, cruising Sydney Harbour — a truly beautiful setting. Except of course that is was pouring with rain and we all spend the entire cruise below deck, viewing the bar.

If the idea of nuptials makes you break out in hives, a family reunion may bring rain. But be warned, this type of event can also result in heat waves and dust storms (at least that's what's happened for me).

Not in the mood for a get together? All right. We come to the sure fire, never fail method of bringing rain to parched lands — start a building or renovation project.

In my experience, nothing brings in the storm clouds faster than removing roofing materials. A simple three-day resheeting job took three weeks as the poor roofers tussled with the weather.

The same applies to wall cladding — pull off any cladding and, as soon as the inner lining is revealed, before you can say, “Where's the tarpaulin”, the drops will fall.

But nothing, absolutely nothing, guarantees steady rains as much as building from scratch. Dig a hole for foundations — it will become a well overnight. Lay formwork for a concrete pour — it will be a pond by the next day.

Suppose you manage to get the foundations down. Now you have to lay the flooring before the frame goes up. Go to it, put down that sheeting. Don't bother covering it: “It'll be right. It hasn't rained in months”. I guarantee it will rain. Lots. For weeks.

Prepare your yard to take lawn. Dig it up, rake it out flat and level, and remove every imperfection. Go to bed tired, aching and happy in the knowledge that when the turf is laid tomorrow it will be best-looking lawn in the civilised world.

Wake up in the middle of the night. Yep, that's right. It's raining, hard. Hard enough to make little rivulets through your beautifully prepared bowling green.

What? I hear you scoff: “It's not that easy. Our rain gods are not so easily fooled.”

Don't bet on it.

Get together with your friends and neighbours, synchronise with the bod down the street who needs a new roof, and plan ahead. Get all the work happening on the same weekend.

Make sure at least three people intone the mantra: “We'll be fine, as long as it doesn't rain.” This must be said on separate occasions, by different people. And must be dismissed immediately as a frivolous thought.

What rain god could resist an open roof, a scraped bare yard, a fresh, wet concrete slab and a garden party all in one weekend?

Now stand back and have your umbrella ready.

Oh, and be sure your gutters are clear and your boat's shipshape, just in case.

Updated: December 18, 2016 — 3:59 am
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