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Gill informs me that Britain is in the middle of a ‘heat wave’ — those five days that constitute summer in the minds of the sodden, cool island inhabitants. It has reached the mid-twenties. Well, la di da! Child, don’t tell me about it until you hit the mid-thirties with a humidex of over 40. Now that’s REAL summer. I feel what is needed is a re-education program for Gill. I am concerned that she has been conditioned, by her time in Britain, in such a way that she will not survive our current excessive temps when soon she deplanes.

I was horrified (and yet, strangely, not surprised) when she admitted she has no shorts in London. Since they have very few occasions when the weather merits them, she left hers here– waiting for her glorious return for summer frolicking.

“Ma, I went shopping for some shorts today! You’d be so proud of me,” she began.

“And precisely WHY would that be?” I countered. “Have I not told you countless times that when one travels, no matter where, one must be prepared for all types of weather. I know England is known for its lack of sun, but really? Aren’t you the person who travels with her own personal ‘little black cloud’? The forecasters predict rain for you and it snows. They predict a rotten, wet summer and it is blisteringly hot. You seem to have a talent for attracting the wrong kind of weather. And you have at least two pairs of shorts. You couldn’t take one pair to England JUST IN CASE?”

“Ma, my suitcase was full! I prioritize when I pack. Sweaters and woolly tights first. Then maple syrup. Then tampons — the ones I can’t get here. Then my books. Shorts and other such fripperies get the toss…”

“Yes, well, how is the ‘fripperies’ shopping going? As far as the stores here are concerned, summer is over, it’s back-to-school season with winter nipping at our heels.  I doubt you’ll find much in the way of summer outfits in England. I recall an expression of your grandfather’s…if I may paraphrase slightly: shorts in England are about as much use as teats on a bull.”

” That’s the best you’ve got, Ma? I did find a couple of pairs. But they looked kinda weird.”

“What do you expect? The English don’t do shorts. What’s the point?”

“Ma, the Brits don’t HAVE to do shorts — the shorts were probably made in Bangladesh, just like every other store in the world. Why, I bet your fancy brand shorts were made there too.”

“Actually, they were. I felt quite guilty when that factory fire killed the poor workers. I didn’t sleep that night. I was up worrying about my clothes. It used to be that size and colour were the only things. Now, you have to know where they were made, if they were shipped on an environmentally sound vessel using bird guano as fuel, if the buttons were made from poached elephant tusks, if the thread was stolen from orphaned silkworms with disabilities, if those ‘beige’ shorts were dyed from onion skins that were viciously ripped from the onions, causing the onions pain and leaving scars….Perhaps, when all is said and done, we’d be better off naked. Speaking of which, did I tell you about the Dog Beach we took the puppy to this weekend? One topless sunbather almost scared all the dogs away. But that’s another story for another time.”

“Ma, that’s TMI. Back to your shorts. Please tell me you’re not still wearing those really short, really inappropriate ones you’ve worn for the past ten years? They make your legs look like bird legs. Besides, you’re too old to be wearing them. Time you acted your age.”

“Oh, no. I only wear them around the house…and to water the garden. And cut the lawn. And put out the trash. And get the mail.”

“Ma! That’s all you do in a day! That IS ‘out in the public view’ for you. If you’re not careful, the Decency Police will be looking for you.”

“Again, who made you the Queen of Morals? Those shorts are perfectly decent. Everything worthy of note is covered…”

“Oh, where to start?” she groaned.

Of course, since she lives in Britain, there are few preparations Gill can make for our particular brand of sizzling heat. Here in North America, the ‘New World’ (the world of the super fridge and air conditioning everywhere — including, I believe, some doghouses), we are ready. We simply crank up the air con to max in our cars, buy stock in sunscreen companies, and prepare to sit in lines of traffic for hours in an attempt to flee to ‘cottage country’. We love nothing better than diving into a cold lake. Of course these days, you don’t have to go to a northern lake. You can just board the subway — and wait for a downpour to bring the water to you — frogs, snakes and all.

Or, in my version of ‘coping’, crank up the air con in my house until it reaches the setting for ‘meat locker’. I know I’ve been successful when the windows are covered with condensation and I can no longer see outside. I reached that particular Nirvana this morning. Even at that, I sleep with two ice packs — one between my knees and one on my neck. Gill berates me for this behaviour, but wait til she passes menopause…then we’ll talk!

When she lived with me, control of the thermostat was a constant source of friction. She wore her winter robe around the house to stay warm; I strutted around in my bathing suit, a glass of ice water in one hand, a paper fan in the other.

“Ma, it’s freezing in here! Do you know how much power you’re using up with this air con? I thought you cared about the environment!”

“I do. MINE. I fail to see who is going to benefit if I die from heatstroke in my home. By the time my body is discovered ten days later, the house will have to be condemned and torn down to get rid of the stench. Do you have any idea how much energy all those big bulldozers use? Better that I should be a responsible citizen and keep myself alive and cool.”

“Yes, Ma. I’ll be home in a couple of weeks. Be prepared to do battle over the thermostat.”

So I look forward to a few weeks of sparring with Gill again over who will stand victorious. “Oh, not to worry. I am prepared. Remember: she who pays the electric bill wins!”

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