Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Stardate August 16th
Location. Cafe at Marks & Spencer. UK
With my Brazilian coffee on the table and the first sips now coursing through my body I sit here typing and shivering as the air conditioning units blast out their frigid contribution. Time was when one could enter a cafe and bask in the warmth and damp rain-smell of other habitués as conversation blended with the cloying fug of tobacco smoke and the heating was, if not warm, at the very least comfortable. You can't do that any longer in the UK! Smoke that is.
Ok, look out! The air con man has just pulled up outside!
We Brits talk a lot about the weather and who am I not to avail myself of such a topic? Cue for a song? Baby it’s cold outside. Yet such is the plight of we who dwell in this god-forsaken land.
It’s the three D’s that apply to us hardened islanders – Damp. Dark and Dismal – that about sums up our climate.
Historical note – When the Romans reached the shores of what is now France and gazed out through the mists to observe our land they couldn’t see much because of the rain clouds hovering over Pegwell Bay. According to the Roman diarists of the time they considered ‘England’ to be inhabited by the souls of the dead. Their thinking was that no living person would choose to spend time in, or on, our rain sodden land. Yet those hardened Latinos from sunnier climes still popped over the channel to loot and pillage us. They slaughtered a few thousand of our backward race, liberated us of any gold and silver reserves and subjugated us in the name of ‘civilisation’.
That’s the educational section done with so let us continue... Where was I? Oh yes, the three D’s. Dank, Dark and Dismal. That really is the state of our climate. Indeed, if the sun ever does manage to pierce the gloom and deign to show its face we get people contacting the local constabulary to report a UFO or they get on bended knee with eyes raised to the heavens wailing about a ‘sign of the god’s displeasure'.
It’s pouring down at the moment but hey, that’s nothing new as I’ve explained above. Do you know what we rain-sodden people do when the sun actually shines for more than a couple of days? We go into panic mode. People stand on street corners bemoaning the terrible heat (that’s anything between 16 and 22 degrees). Old men appear with handkerchiefs knotted on their heads to protect them from the glare.
They even wear shorts, normal shoes, long socks (yes SOCKS) and stagger around as if they were on holiday in the Mediterranean and all the while bemoaning the fate of the country as two days turns into three and it officially becomes a ‘heatwave’.
The trains cease to run on time because of the heat. Water rationing is imposed by the powers that be. Health warnings blare from our TV’s and radios. Jumping into ponds, rivers or reservoirs becomes an extreme sport to be undertaken only by the foolhardy or the brave.
This cafe is filling up now and every single person is moaning about the weather (it’s a UK standard of address & conversation opener). Yes, it’s raining, yes it’s cold but still the ever present cooling systems continue with their arctic blasts. Last time it was like this in here I mentioned it to the staff behind the counter and they looked at me as if I was from another planet.
Their reply? “Well we get really hot behind here because of the machines and cookers that’s why we need the air con, to cool us down.”
WELL EXCUSE ME!
I pointed to the frostbitten customers shivering uncontrollably, huddled together like a lost colony of penguins as they looked on with envious eyes at the scantily clad staff lurking safe and warm behind their defensive line of cups, cakes and other assorted overpriced goods. Alas, to no avail so I made my way back to my seat wishing I still had the warm weather gear given out by the British Army when on manoeuvres in cold lands.
Talking of animals in cold places. Reminds of the mother polar bear sat beside baby polar bear who looks up at his mother and asks, “Am I a polar bear, mummy?” Mother smiles gently at her offspring and replies, “Yes dear, you are a polar bear just like me.”
Baby bear thinks about this for a while then asks, “Are you really sure I’m a polar bear?” Mother chuckles and wonders at the innocence of youth before adding, “You’re a polar bear just like me and just like your dad. Tell me why you ask.” The baby bear shivers, puts his paws under his armpits, hugs himself tight, sighs and states quietly, “Then why am I so effing cold?”
I envy you readers in foreign lands where the sun is part of your life, to be embraced rather than feared as we Anglo Saxons do. Where the populace is given to smiling and wearing light summer garb for months on end. Where you can sit outside a cafe or bar exchanging pleasantries with friends and passers-by.
Nobody visits England for the weather. Indeed, that’s why we flee abroad at every opportunity. Yes they have air con in those faraway sunny lands but there’s a logical reason for that – ITS HOT!
Every big store in the UK has the ubiquitous air con blasting away. No matter the weather, whether sunny or not it never gets turned off and I for one intend to do something about it.
Oh, look out, Eskimo Nell has just skated in and she seems quite pleased with the temperature. She’ll be constructing an igloo over there by the open window.
That’s it, time to go now and sit in the car with the heating turned up to full so as to thaw out.
Bollocks to air con!