So the heat continues to rise here in the UK, and it is hot! On Saturday the thermometer in our garden read just over 38 degrees centigrade (100 degrees farenheit) in the sun! Now that is hot!
Of course, being Brits, we were out in it all weekend long. We’ve used the barbecue more than once, a few times actually, and nothing beats winding down at the end of the day with a lovely, tall glass of Pimms, or a cold beer, or even some Prosecco. All very civilized. Who needs to go away for a summer holiday? We’ve got it right here on our very own doorstep!
Well, except for the beach that is, but close enough…
This heat wave has got me thinking about all things hot and sunny and how very different it was for me when I first moved to California. I really couldn’t understand why, in the summer, everyone’s houses seemed to be plunged into darkness, curtains pulled tight, blinds and shutters firmly closed, neighbourhoods seemingly deserted. It just seemed so alien to me.
But then I hadn’t yet experienced the kind of heat which makes this a necessity at the height of summer. I didn’t understand that it would be so hot that it was unbearable to go outside in it, unless in the shade, and even then, too darn hot for long! The best and only place to be was shut up inside with the lovely, cool air conditioning blasting away!
Still, the thought of having to stay indoors locked up like that on a lovely summer’s day never really sat quite right with me. As a Brit, this is what I’m used to: The minute the sun is out we fling open all the windows, open all the doors and can’t wait to get out in it, sun-starved creatures that we are. Going to see a movie on a summer’s day just seemed so strange to me, even though I relished the cool respite as much as the next person!
My children had a very different upbringing to my own. In Britain, this is what we do in a heat wave:
We go out for picnics and swelter. We go for long, countryside walks and visit garden centres. We sit in our gardens and bake in the sun, we go to the beach where we can hardly move for all the crowds and eat 99 ice creams. We drink cold beer, yes, but we still drink cups of tea. Hot tea.
What does make it harder here for me, I admit, is the humidity, as opposed to the ‘dry’ heat of California which I found easier to cope with, although I have never experienced heat like the type in Las Vegas one August. I opened the hotel door and it was as if somebody was standing there blasting heat from a giant-sized hair dryer straight onto my face, like a wall of heat that I could almost touch and say “ouch!” to.
Nobody can go out in that kind of heat.
The hardest heat I ever had to contend with, however, was when I was pregnant with my daughter. We lived in a tiny, rural town at the time, out in the middle of nowhere, population 500. The summers there were hot, let me tell you. We had one electric air conditioner in the master bedroom which shorted every time I tried to use it, so I gave up.
My daughter was born in mid-August so I carried her through the hottest months. I would be so tired that in the afternoons all I could do was to go into our bedroom and lie down on the bed, with my little boy cuddled up to me and we would go to sleep while his older brother would play a video game ( ‘Zelda’ ) while sitting on the edge of the bed. It is no coincidence that my daughter became obsessed with that game and I think that the music from it brainwashed me as I have never forgotten it…
The day my daughter was born it was 47 C (that’s 116 F). I reckon if I can survive that I can survive anything.
But I do love the heat really. My husband and I have visited the beautiful Greek Island of Crete a couple of times and it gets just as hot there. One particular day, we decided to take a walk. We were the only ones out but then it was over 40 C (104 F)
The cicadas serenaded us with their summer cacophony, out of sight, hidden deep within the surrounding olive trees, the hot, dry dust skimming our feet as we looked for a place to sit down. We came across a taverna on the side of the road, opposite the sea.
On the other side of the road, underneath the welcome shade of a tree and right on the beach, sat a brightly hand-painted wooden table and two chairs.
I think we sat there for about 3 hours having lunch.
It was magical.
Somehow, it just isn’t the same here, sitting outside in the high street in front of Costa having a coffee…
To finish, I think that our very British way of handling the heat can best be told in this amusing little story:
My uncle and auntie tell of their trip to North Carolina one summer to visit some friends. The sun beat down outside and they couldn’t understand why their friends never wanted to go out unless it was in their air conditioned car to the air-conditioned malls. One afternoon, having some free time while their friends had some errands to run, my Uncle and Auntie, fed up being, quite literally, kept in the dark, decided to escape.
My uncle, stripping off his shirt, and my auntie (who definitely didn’t strip off her shirt but had a lovely summer frock on) headed outside. Finding a lovely spot in their friend’s garden, they lay down, basking in the sun.
When their friends later returned, they were shocked rigid to see two people lying, sprawled out on their front lawn, never having seen such a sight in all their lives, and looking for all the world like a couple of dead bodies, upon which they called the paramedics.
You can just imagine the scene which followed, the unnecessary panic and then my lovely uncle saying,
“But we were only sunbathing, we’re English!”.
So yes, it is all true, and Noel Coward said it best:
Mad dogs & Englishmen (really do) go out in the midday sun. Enjoy it 🙂