We are now in full summer mode and although I can’t argue against the benefits of the much welcomed injection of vitamin D into my pasty white carcass, I must admit I’m not a fan of the summer months. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy the longer nights, a beer in the garden (but that’s mainly because of the beer) a chance to give friends and family food poisoning at my own BBQ and that mood of optimism in the air; but despite that I don’t think the summer agrees with me.
In the UK we seem to have extremes when it comes to the weather. It’s always so unexpected, it catches us off guard. Snow that comes so heavy that everything grinds to a halt, floods that border on the biblical and days so hot and humid you feel like you’ve been parachuted into an oil field in Iraq. I find it hard to even think when temperatures creep into the thirties, small tasks seem as daunting as an expedition to Everest. On the hottest day of the year my wife and I had to change the bed, a task that makes me want to weep at the best of times.
After the first pillow case I was already wet through, the sweat was pouring down my back and running in between my butt cheeks like a river and I had so much sweat in my eyes I couldn’t see the buttons on the duvet cover.
The thing the summer does though is give us Brits something to talk about, our favorite subject; the weather. As the temperature increases our ways of describing it becomes more and more bizarre. “Ohh isn’t it muggy out there!” No, unless you’ve just being mugged, that makes no sense. “The problem is, it’s just too close” well yes it will be close, it’s the weather and it’s all around you. In Yorkshire they used to say “eeee its crackin’ flags out there!” meaning it’s so hot it’s capable of causing fracture to your patio slabs, quite poetic, but still sounds like utter bollocks. “It’s warm we can’t work; pass me a beer” that’s all the words you need.
Everyone has their own methods for coping with the heat; particularly at night. I’m almost used to falling asleep now to the gentle white noise of a humming desk fan. There is always that moment when you forget where the fan is and proceed to trip yourself up over the cable on the way to your 4th pee of the night.
I don’t wear my bed clothes in a heatwave, but I like a single sheet on me, there has to be a small amount of weight there. I can’t do totally naked, laid out like a human sacrifice, I feel far too vulnerable. Also the hot weather brings with it the increase in midges and blood sucking insects and the last thing I want is to offer myself up like some sort of human all you can eat buffet.
It’s normally the early hours of the morning when the heat subsides enough to allow you to drift off. You’ve then got at least 4 hours of fidgety, sweat soaked sleep before you are rudely awaken by that “summer soundtrack”. The buzz of a Strimmer, a lawnmower, the neighbour building yet another outdoor “project” that just seems to be him hammering the same nail in again and again for three straight hours, or a determined mosquito who proceeds to fly back and forth past your ear until you eventually declare war, put the light on and chase him round the room with a rolled up newspaper.
The daytimes are easier; you can always find relief in an air conditioned shop or supermarket. If you’re crafty you can spend twenty minutes in the frozen food isle leaning over some Aunt Bessies roast potatoes, wearing nothing but your underwear. It’s heaven and really reduces your core body temperature; the hour interview in the manager’s office and the subsequent court appearance is a small price to pay.
As a blonde haired white man, I burn like kindling in the most moderate of heat. I think we underestimate the weather in the UK, like the sun is somehow a different one to the one that you lie back and bask in on a foreign holiday. We seem to think nothing of doing a full day’s work in the garden, bear chested, without sun cream and with only the one cup of tea to hydrate us. “Its fine love, we are in Wigan on a Wednesday, it’s not going to burn me, this is British sun; best in the world!” the day after we are in agony, peeling sheets of skin of our bodies so large you could wrap presents with them.
In the summer months my hay fever condition announces itself with a new found anger and aggression, like a pit-bull on steroids. With eyes streaming like I’ve just been tear gassed, a nose itchier than that of a supermodel with a grand a day coke habit, hives and bumps on my skin a blind man could read as brail and body riddled with so many antihistamines I can barely stay conscious. All in all it’s not a good “look.” They always warn you about not operating heavy machinery when you take antihistamines, which makes me feel sad, how many forklift truck drivers and welders are struggling out there? Unable to work because they have to walk that fine line between sleeping and sneezing.
Summer attire is also stressful. I am completely lost with the sock, sandal, plimsoll, deck shoe or moccasin etiquette. There are normal length socks, sometimes worn with leather sandals, which only geography teachers and bible salesmen are allowed to wear. There are trainer socks, which seem more socially acceptable, white socks though, never black, particularly if you are wearing shorts. Black socks with trainers and shorts looks like you’ve been doing P.E at school and forgotten your kit and had to rummage around in the lost property box. I find picking clothes for a heatwave is difficult. I never go commando though, I don’t care how hot it is, I still need some organization down there.
When it’s warm my testicles seem to be constantly in love with my inner thighs, I often have to peel them away from each other like I’m removing a sticker from a windscreen. It’s like a battle down there most days and both parties need to be segregated for their own good.
I can’t and won’t wear a vest and going topless isn’t something I feel comfortable with. The other day I saw a man with his top off, riding a ladies bike with a basket on the front. In the basket of the bike there was a pack of lager and a small dog keeping looking out; it was like a low budget version of the film E.T. It was 24 degrees and we were in a car park outside Lidl, it’s not the Algarve. Put your top back on.
It’s quite late now and the heat has subsided, I’m going to attempt to turn in for the night, or maybe the whole season? I might find the coolest spot in the house; black out the windows, fill my socks with ice, and survive on nothing but a freezer full of Magnum Classics.
See you in October