“A tropic heat oozed up from the ground, rank with sharp odours of roots and nettles. Snow-clouds of elder-blossom banked in the sky, showering upon me the fumes and flakes of their sweet and giddy suffocation. High overhead ran frenzied larks, screaming, as though the sky were tearing apart.” – Laurie Lee.
I’ve always been okay with the heat. The humidity doesn’t bother me either. Can’t stand being cold, though. Especially the kind of cold that sinks deep into the body. The kind that comes on icy tipped nails of rain. Working outside in both extremes has resulted in some unforgettable images, but sharing a fact that I have regularly gathered 10˚c of frost in my beard, or accounts of walking a steel plate on the back of a tar spraying tanker with bitumen running inches beneath my feet at 190˚c: often results in reactions, more cold than hot. Weather is never really up for discussion, is it? The changeability and extremes are merely prompts for a good old moan. That’s how it seems, anyway. Someone will tell me I’m wrong, no doubt.
During the 1976 heatwave I recall a workmate being ecstatic after reading a tabloid item about what to eat and drink to help with coping in high temperatures. “Crisps and beer!” he yelled. “No it’s true. I read it in the paper!”
Quite late in the summer of the following year, I was resurfacing roads in the Test Valley. We had two contract drivers running chippings from depot to site, Bill and Charlie. Of course they were. What else could they be called? All through the searing heat of that spell, I was intrigued, noting the differences between the pair. Bill, tall, pitifully thin, well groomed snow white hair, and a huge waxed moustache to match, spent most days stripped to the waist and wore no shoes. Charlie, about 5 feet tall, flat cap, jacket and waistcoat and tie, corduroy trousers pulled halfway up his chest, and wellington boots! You see? We all develop our own strategies for riding out the summer.
Back then, advice on over exposure to the sun ran pretty much at the level as the aforementioned crisps and beer diet. For most people, UVA and UVB rays would probably have been regarded as references to Dr Who’s latest challenge. Now we know better.
So, these past few days I’ve pretty much stayed indoors, watched a bit of tennis, kept hydrated, written a few words and enjoyed the warmth of the season. Tomorrow is another matter. It’s the grandchildren’s sports day. While I go in search of the sun cream, you might like to listen to this. It’s perfect with a long, cold drink.