I saw this reel on Instagram the other day; it essentially takes a slightly misquoted version of Alfred Wainwrights’ famous quote, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, and puts it down instead as “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices”, they then go onto how severe their weather is and how teachers can’t take little ones out in the deep snow, etc. due to this, and how some of the parent/guardians of these little ones are not able to afford suitable clothing, so in their opinion, there is “bad weather” and other people must either be well off or live in places without as many seasons. They then state that it is a very classist statement.
Whilst I’m afraid I have to disagree with the negative undertone, I agree with some of the detail. Here are my thoughts –
Bad weather. Here’s a point I disagree with, I try to limit the use of the word bad where I can; I feel it gives my little ones the idea something is set; it’s just bad, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so I would say the weather can vary and has different impacts on us, primarily based on accessibility to suitable clothing.
Not being able to afford suitable clothing: YES!!! This is such an issue, not just for harsh conditions but for everyday, cheaper clothing is usually lower quality, so it wears out quicker unless you go second-hand for more quality items. It’s a frustrating cycle for those in low and no-income households, and there is often little support in this area. This is why we are working on partnerships to ensure all little people who come to us can access quality waterproofs to protect them from colder and wetter weather, allowing prolonged time in the elements and giving our little ones the knowledge that they don’t have to wait for “good” days to enjoy themselves, they can be in nature, with its positive impact on mental health, in all (safe*) weather. I feel the creator hit on such an important topic, but rather than focusing on a solution; they used it to limit what our little people can do.
Seasons: We all have seasons of varying levels, some have more significant weather variations and others less so dependent on distance from the equator and weather systems, but there are places in the high north where little people and their parents, who may have relatively little financial wealth, but still have appropriate clothing due to skills passed down for generations
Was Alfred Wainwright a Classist? I highly doubt it. Alfred Wainwright grew up in poverty, as the youngest son of a Stonemason in the early 1900s, so he probably saw a very different version of poverty than we see today (not worse, just different), yet he still believed in getting into the outdoors in all weather. Let’s be honest; whilst the weather isn’t as cold as in northern Canada or Norway, it can still be quite extreme. For him, the outdoors was transformational, and after his first trip to the Lake District, his first impressions were, “It was a moment of magic, a revelation so unexpected that I stood transfixed, unable to believe my eyes. Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell which changed my life.”(1). This, in part at least, is why he felt so passionately about the impact of the outdoors and accessing it whatever the weather.
So, how can we help make the change? Having appropriate clothing for cold and wet weather isn’t about having the most expensive protective clothing; layering is a great way to keep warm, and there are some fab items in charity shops and on eBay which can be bought and fixed (if necessary), which is what we have done in the past. Not all people have access to this or are aware of what is available, so write to your MP, your local council, your schools, and local children’s charities about this area, ensuring education providers have access to donated or charitable sourced protective clothing and layers, meaning all little people can go outside in the warm. If there isn’t anyone in your area who can help, maybe look at setting up a charity or get in touch with us, and we can see how we can support you. We need to break down barriers so that little people (and bigger ones) from lower and no-income families can still access the hugely beneficial outdoor environment.
*Safe refers to if the MET office has stated the weather is dangerous to humans, then of course it’s totally appropriate to be out of the weather and in a safe place.
(1) Ex-Fellwanderer (1987), A. Wainwright