Twice in the last few weeks we’ve had a ferocious hailstorm. The most recent one was the worst. I was convinced the skylights were going to break. The noise was incredible. Once the worst was over, we went outside to check the llamas, and found ourselves crunching over walnut sized hailstones. This means the hailstorm had an intensity of H2 to H5, according to a hailstone classification chart I came across on the web. Worryingly, the range goes up to H10. Now that means coconut sized hailstones, and those I do not want to see. The hail we had did enough damage. Both the cars are dimpled all over, our pumpkin patch – Chris’s pride and joy – has been reduced to a mess of ragged leaves and scarred pumpkins, and one of our two surviving sunflowers has been beheaded. All the other plants look very bashed and battered, and our tomato crop has taken another blow.

pumpkinpatchafterhailThere are actually several hailstone classification systems. Another is the ANELFA scale that goes from A0 to A5 for pea, grape, pigeon’s egg, walnut, hen’s egg, orange. The only weak link in that scale in my opinion is the pigeon egg. Have you ever seen one? I haven’t, and although I can obviously work out that is somewhere between a grape and a walnut, I’m still vague about it. I’ve surfed the Net for more info and found out that pigeon’s eggs vary in size from 2.5cm to 5cm, so I’m not much the wiser! The only thing I can think of that would fit the ‘bigger than grape but smaller than walnut’ formula is one of my son’s giant marbles or a small apricot perhaps?

The hail came in the wake of a thunderstorm. Every summer we get plenty of those. The weather gets hotter and hotter over a period of several days, then it starts to get humid, and then, bang, a thunderstorm. No more tomatoes. The air clears, the phone stops working, we optimistically plant out yet more seedlings and then the cycle starts again.

There is a website devoted to the study of thunderstorms and tornadoes in France. It’s at and makes for fascinating reading. France is subject to more violent thunderstorms than you would think, it tells us, some of which lead to tornadoes. I’ll settle happily for hail if that’s the alternative. So far this year France has seen the formation of 12 supercells. One of these on 25 May brought misshapen hailstones the size of a mobile phone. And here I am moaning about our walnut size ones. There have been five major lightning strikes, one destroying a bell tower and another five houses. I shall keep a close eye on the keraunos website now that I’ve found it. It gives short term and medium term thunderstorm warnings. I’ll know when to rush out with a blanket to cover our poor remaining pumpkins.