Friday, 26 July 2013


There is still cause for aestivating. The temperature has not dropped below 26 degrees centigrade since I complained to you last time. In my defence - against all of you who love the heat, of course - I offer the plea that I have never had a wish to hibernate and positively enjoy the cold weather.  I thought that at three score and a lot more than ten years old my blood would have thinned and I would better be able to tolerate the soaring temperatures. It hasn't. In an attempt to thwart the Wizard of Discomfort, I went with the Father of my children on a river cruise in aid of a very worthwhile charity.  Advantages: cool breezes, wonderful views, even of Tower Bridge being opened to let our tall mast through, and interesting fellow travellers. Disadvantages: 30 degrees and no shade. Worse than that, the outing was described as a breakfast cruise with a recital by a dear, young soprano friend thrown in as an incentive. However, breakfast and singing  were to take place below deck, access to which was via a flight of stairs that had a gradient of one in one. That's right. You heard: one in one. In other words, a ladder. The ladder was decked out as pretend stairs, in that it had steps of about four inches wide, covered in something or other. Give or take a hyperbole or two, it was a ladder. To add insult to certain injury, the 'facilities' were also below.  Picture Liz, stick in hand, steppping gingerly over various coils of ropes and impedimenta, nothing supportive to hold on to, surveying the prospect of spending the next several hours hungry, needing the Ladies, gently boiling in the unshadowed noonday sun. Actually, gently boiling probably equates to simmering, wouldn't you say? Got the picture? There was but one solution: Keep Calm and  Carry on.

As a habit, I am a veritable Girl Guide in my 'be preparedness'. My carry-on bag holds an umbrella which doubles as a parasol during aestivation and a bag of nuts or whatever to guard against hunger at any time. On this  occasion, in the interest of glamour, I had dispensed with the basics and in the bag had only half of a forgotten banana, a great deal the worse for hanging about, and a shawl to cover the opposite contingency to the one I was facing - freezation. I told myself all bad things come to an end and prayed they or I would come to that end before soon. The soprano was deeply sympathetic about my access dilemma and brought me a plate of food. I took it from her and put it down beside me while I divested myself of my bags and freed my hands. You've guessed. Crash, bang ,splatter, there was my plate up-ended on the deck. I thought I was too old for embarrassment: I'm not. But I applied a touch of Mindfulness and allowed myself to be tidied up without recourse to an outpouring of apologies. When we moored temporarily,on the way back, waiting for our time to dock, Himself and I dis-embarked across a miniscule stretch of Thames and went to an adjacent hotel to deal with nature and whatever. It was not my best mannered moment nor my most ingratiating and I doubt I shall ever be asked again, but needs must when the Wizard of Overheating prevails. When I was forty I'd have shimmied up and down that ladder like any monkey you have ever met, bearing sausage and scrambled egg in one hand and my carry-on bag in the other. As it was, the only carrying on I achieved was the inevitable brouhaha I created by my elderly incapability to run the course as it was presented." O dee meah", as my baby son would have said when rueing his day. Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


You may prefer to lose the dipthong and spell it "estivation". Either way, its the only possible state for one who manages life better at a maximum of 24 degrees centigrade than she does at 30. For those of you over the Pond, that must be a favourite of about 72 fahrenheit as opposed to avoid-at-all-costs 85. There are difficult choices to be made. One could hunker down with some air-conditioning and let the rest of the world go by, the fee being a feeling of invisibility and non-existence, or one could live an as-if ordinary life out and about and risk a collapse from heat stroke. I have been trying the latter. However, being isolated or left out in the cold is parallel in thermal terms to the effect of overheating. One is either 100% overheated or 100% 'frozen'. I am further isoltated from my fellows because there is almost universal glee about the sunshine and the con-committant heatwave. Were I to dare verbally to notice, let alone complain about the heat I should be ostracised or even committed as an alien being. Believe me. I speak from experience. So picture Liz, crawling down the road, hogging the scarcely woman-sized width of the shade offered by the shops and, sometimes, even their canopies. Admittedly, those do provide a wider shadow but they are very short and soon walked passed. One positive factor is that I do have enough cool clothing, some of it never worn, having been purchased for the holiday which never  materialised last year.

My Enquiry Desk shift at the hospital works well on a number of levels. There is air-conditioning even in the wide hall where we are located. Not only that, there are draughts from the star-fish of passages with which we are surrounded. It's a great vantage point from which to observe how the natives deal with the extraordinary weather conditions.  The male doctors are shirt-sleeved, neatly rolled up - the sleeves, not the doctors. They wear ties for the most part and maintain an air of professional purpose.  The females wear  linen trousers or dresses, down to the knee and with something of a cover for the top of the arms. There is quite a challenge in identifying these illustrious beings. For reasons of hygiene they do not wear their name badges on a lanyard around their necks as we do. They pin them to belts or trouser pockets. Were one desperate to identify such a being, it would be necessary to peer at their nether regions. I hope you imagination is boggling. It is an act not to be contemplated lightly. Less identifiable are the many other passers-by. We have seen men with huge tummies and bandy legs in torn -off jeans or wide-legged shorts. We have seen ladies with bra straps peeping and some with clearly no bra. The coolest look, in all senses, must be the sari. They serve to point up what a disaster most of the rest of us make of dressing for the tropics.  The library is a different matter: no air-conditioning and a windowless basement. But there is a jolly fan which swings merrily about and serves as a hurricane for even the substantialish cards with which we work. Indeed, it is  a bonus to bend down and pick them up from the floor, giving the backs of our necks a turn at the cool air. There is something very reassuring, though, in the make-do-and-mend of the library with its old-time card indices a nd no air-conditioning: familiar to the 40 year old and, therefore,comfortable for my current self. But, by the end of the shift I am so confused as to the order of the alphabet that I have to write it out, letter by letter, put it in front of me and consult it for every Mc or Mac as I try to establish the sequence of its next relevant letter. If only the Wizard of Archive would keep his hands off it until next time. Nos da

Sunday, 7 July 2013


It's all very well for the rest of you but I hate the heat. There you are, I have registered it in black and white. I do feel guilty. After all, we have been waiting for summer for about a year. In my case, two years because I spent the last one in hospital. I feel guilty that I begrudge all those near-naked bodies on Hampstead  Heath their sun-worship while I cower in my air-conditioned bedroom at a fixed 19 degrees. I thought myself slightly crazed when I had the air-conditioning unit installed. After all, on this side of the Pond how often was I going to need it? Never mind how often, just think how cool. I also had one in the room where I worked. That one stopped working and I stopped working, too, rather than spend the obscene amount of money it would have taken to mend it. My lodger, who is from a consistently warm place in Continental Europe, is more or less permanently miserable because of the weather. Not today: she is positively shining with delight and has gone off to picnic in the Park. The world is a different one, it seems, in the warmth of the sun.

Now,  at my age in the heat there are sartorial considerations to consider.Which is not to say there were'nt always such considerations. But there is a world of difference between which sleeveless linen dress or floaty skirt and which long-sleeved garment will be the coolest in the wardrobe.  No-one over let's say fifty, should display upper arms unless they are beautiful and toned and blemish free. Mine are not. The answer is to wear a sort of vest in fine cotton with a jacket-type garment over it. That does mean two layers of fabric over the back but a combination of vanity and a fear of frightening the horses stiffen one's forebearance considerably. I do rather miss the clothes of my youth, though. A day or so ago I again had the privilege of listening to the Big Swing Band   that had me as-if tripping round Trafalgar Square a blog post or so ago. This time we were also treated to some period dresses, you know, if you are old enough or have seen "Dirty Dancing", tight waist, voluminous skirt, stiff petticoats underneath. Even if I had kept mine, mysteriously, I am a stone or so - fourteen pounds if you are in Mountain View California - heavier than I was the first time around. (Confession: the 'or so' is nearly another stone.) However, the young lady wearing such a dress,(frock) bright red with white polka dots and layers of black tulle underskirt, had bottomed it with a pair of red and white trainers and  black pop socks -  stockings to the knee if they are dubbed something else over there in M V Ca. The effect was ludicrous. We hadn't even progressed from gym shoes/plimsolls in the fifties. We would have been wearing genteel heels to our court shoes, not more than two inches high, I should guess, and a stocking was a grown up, right to the top of one's leg,  fixed with a suspender hanging from a pretty band around the waist - not the same as a man's braces supporting his trousers, (pants) as seen , again, in M V Ca.  It was not a juvenile, stopping half way up. Think of it: " a glimpse of stocking was thought of as something shocking", enchantingly so, whereas a glimpse of pop sock is simply unattractive and bad taste not to mention out of period.

 This post shows signs of being a lesson in translating from the English to the American. In which case I have bitten off more than I can chew. My repertoire is almost exhausted, as am I , in the heat. Prynhawn da.