I have lived in the UK for the better part of twelve years now. Over time, I’ve adjusted to the place and its dreary weather. I’ve become used to the sun being something we see fleetingly in summer, and for it to be rainy all year round. I have even done the sensible thing and purchased a raincoat and rain boots to cope with the weather.
But much as I can cope with the weather in my adopted country, I pride myself on still knowing what actual real weather is. I am very proud to come from a country where everything does not freak out and shut down at the merest hint of snow. Or where the trains don’t stop because it’s too hot and the tracks are melting – which happens in the UK at the relatively not-hot temperature of somewhere around 25C. I say relatively not-hot because this week I was again reminded of what 40C with the humidex feels like, and the answer is as miserable as I’d remembered it.
Time was, when I lived in Toronto, with no air conditioning and an apartment insulated for snow, I could learn to cope. The first couple weeks of summer were always tricky, but once your body and mind adjust you’re fine. You can sleep through 35C heat at night – it is possible. But you need to get used to it. Even here it’s gradual. It doesn’t just go from -20C to 40C with humidex overnight. There’s at least a fortnight to get used to it. Which I don’t have anymore. I leave London and it’s usually somewhere around 19C and cloudy (because I fly early in the morning and also because it’s the UK), and this summer has been worse than usual weather-wise. For Canada Day (1 July) we were sitting outside under a gazebo with blankets over our legs, scarves, and jackets. So going from that, to 40C is a bit of a change. A start to the system. And my system which does not care for humidity (not good for the arthritis, makes every joint in my body swell in unpleasant and painful ways).
I am thrown out of the plane, into North American air-conditioning only to emerge an hour late, tired, confused, and now feeling as though I’m about to melt.
I have to say, this year has been worse than usual. I have never before craved air-conditioning in such a way. When I was in Toronto, I had some shopping to do and suggested to my friend that we go to the mall. We normally eschew the mall as it’s full of terribleness but it’s also air-conditioned to within an inch of its life. My friend wasn’t keen, but then I said about the heat, and the cooler temps in the mall, and she relented. I’m not even keen to sit on a patio anymore – I like the heat but 40C with humidex values isn’t hot – it’s like living in a sauna that’s located on the sun.
It’s too hot now, though The Mom has taken great glee in reminding me that only a few short years ago I mocked her relentlessly for her desperate need of air-conditioning. Well, a lot can change in a few short years and I’ve got used to wearing jackets and scarves in July.
I am now full of weakness and am no longer able to cope as well as previously in weather that is in any way extreme.
I can be seen this summer scowling out windows, and peering tentatively out of doors. I’m testing to see how ghastly it is. I know it’s going to be horrible – the humidity in particular is a struggle to deal with and makes me feel as though I’m swimming through treacle – but there’s a perverse delight I take in being clear on precisely how awful it is. It’s the same logic that sees me go outside in the midst of the Polar Vortex. I know that you have to experience these things to fully understand what it’s like. Besides, experiencing 40C with the humidex earns me the kind of bragging rights that aren’t easy to come by in the UK.
Anyhow, it’s been just over two weeks since I’ve been home and I am now tanned and have been sunburnt once. My eyes are swollen and red from chlorine and hay fever, my joints are swollen, and my insides are unhappy at the all fruit and veg diet they’ve been abjuring under. But this is what it means to come home to me. Sure, I’ve changed over the years, but it’s nice to remind myself of all the things I used to enjoy on a daily basis.