“Erm, wet.” I said, not quite sure how to answer. I had returned to the UK for the first time since moving to Singapore.
However, once the clouds bubbled up over the English countryside I understood the question. There was a looming feeling, a heaviness across the shoulders, a tightening across the brow. The skies darkened as if nighttime had fallen early. The wind picked up, rustling dried leaves in a distinctly autumnal way, even though it was only July. And then of course it rained. Cold and blustery. A pervading dampness was sucked into the bone marrow. The road turned into a trickling muddy stream, and the seeds were striped from the trees, adding to the mounting detritus on the pavements.
Of course it didn't feel like this in Singapore.
I woke up this morning in Singapore to a yellow, sulphuric glow in the room. Was it sunshine? Had I overslept? I looked at the clock but it was only 7am. Then my ears woke up and I could hear the rush of water. Rain in Singapore is different. It happens nearly every day. And it still surprises me.
You first notice the colour of the sky. The clouds aren't always dark and threatening. This morning it was bright, but the yellow pallor was radioactive rather than fresh and cheerful.
And secondly you notice the intensity. The rain just rains. Rarely a breath of wind. It falls straight down. With such force it splashes through my umbrella. It's cleansing, washing the paths clean and turning the roads into gushing rivers.
I wouldn't usually want to go out in such weather, but after two hours the downpour showed little sign of abating. I had an appointment to keep, and with no car, the only option was a dash to the bus stop. Taxis are magic in Singapore. They disappear during rainstorms.
However inconvenient it is, at least it's warm. The rain often gives a short reprieve from the stifling humidity, and when you get wet you're unlikely to catch a shiver, unless you have to shelter in an over-air-conditioned coffee shop. You just fold away your umbrella, put it in into the handy plastic bag provided by most shopping malls to prevent everything else getting wet, and get on with the day.
Often the rain is accompanied by roaring thunder. This is no innocuous rumble. This is ear splitting, often shattering tree branches with its intensity. And then there are the lightening shows that dance across the sky. John Michel Jarre's laser shows can't even compare.
So the question “what does it feel like when it rains?” isn't so dumb after all.