Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Hooptedoodle #304 - The Haar

View from the upstairs bathroom window - somewhere out there, there should be a
distant view of Dunbar, and the Lammermuir Hills. But not today. This is a day for
staying indoors, and listening to the guy on the radio complaining about how
hot he is in London.
What you might call a characteristic regional phenomenon here is the haar (otherwise known as a sea fret) which blows in off the North Sea during warm weather. As an incomer, I always assumed that haar was probably a Viking word - a number of our local words - especially weather-related ones, have a pleasingly rough, Nordic twang, but it turns out that the origins of this one are almost certainly Dutch - there are similar, ancient words in use in Friesland and the Netherlands which simply describe cold, foggy weather.

Whatever the etymology, the haar is the reason why for the last couple of days, while most of the rest of the country is enjoying a minor heatwave, we have our central heating switched back on and the view out of the window stretches about as far as the trees on the far side of the nearest field.

One of my older sons visited North Berwick on Sunday, and he reassured me that Edinburgh was also cold and misty that morning, but yesterday, when my wife returned from a shopping trip, she arrived at the end of our farm road in bright sunshine, and could see our very own haar sitting like a pancake on top of our woods, so it is probably OK to take it just a little personally. Microclimate.

My first memorable experience of such weather came when I first moved here, in 2000, and my parents came to visit - all the way from (warm, West Coast) Liverpool, during a remarkably fine, warm spell in October. One late afternoon we were sitting on the terrace, with glasses of chilled white wine and straw hats deployed, when suddenly the mist began pouring down from over the trees at the bottom of the garden, and it became gloomy and bitterly cold while you watched. Show over - remarkable. [As a footnote, I have to say that my parents were not put off, and they duly upped sticks and came to live in this area the following year.]


The haar, as I'm sure you are aware if you live on the East Coast, anywhere from Norfolk to John o' Groats (or could care less, if you don't), is the result of warm air passing over the cold sea - the water vapour condenses into thick mist, and the sea breezes waft it back in over the coastal land - the fog obliterates the sunshine, the temperature drops, and we start wondering about the heating. It's always been like this here.

We have had a good number of bright days, too, of course. Here is a swallow resting on
our electricity cable, gathering his strength for nest-building in the woodshed...
And our beloved white lilac has had its brief few days of glory. We really do love the
show it produces, and each year, as the blossoms start to turn brown, I ponder the fact
that it will be another year before we see it again. That's a thought that becomes more
profound each time, I guess.
The Contesse continues to produce some terrific wildlife photos - here's a very
scruffy robin at his ablutions.

We've also had some remarkable exhibitions of raw aggression recently from those icons of peace, the Collared Doves. They have been beating up the wood pigeons on a regular basis. They have now been seen chasing magpies out of our garden - very scary - they really are surprisingly vindictive little beggars. We're still trying to get a photo of that - maybe even a little video, but no luck yet.


  1. Passing up the opportunity to make some sort of remark about Dove Cotes of Arms, I shall ponder the unlikely possibility that 'Haar' has descended from the days of the Jutes and Angles who came from the low countries if memory serves better than usual rather than the more likely Low Countries trade which was so important during medieval and renaissance days before remarking that such sudden coastal fogs are well known where the cold North Atlantic meets the shores of Newfoundland and Nov Scotia.

    In Halifax in early summer it often stands like a wall across the mouth of the harbour on sunny days, caressing points of land that jut too far forward and occasionally rolling forward briefly to warm itself on land.

    I have shadowy, distant, memories of steaming into it and having the visible world disappear for three days with only the radio and radar to suggest that other things were out there with us.

  2. We like near the coast on the Norfolk/Lincs border. The main A17 runs parallel to the coast a couple of miles inland and is on a raised causeway. I t is quite common for one side (usually the coast side) to be foggy, raining or snowing while the weather on the other side is fine.

  3. We drove around the coast of the UK and Scotland was my wife's favorite by far.You live in a lovely part of the world.