Talk About the Weather
We don’t really have seasons out here. We have hot and hotter. At the moment we’re just emerging from the hotter part of the year, which means I still stay in the apartment most of the day and when I do go out I wear thin, loose clothes, walk very slowly, and use my favourite old Marks and Spencer umbrella as a parasol. It almost touched fifty degrees centigrade this summer. “Wow! What’s that like?” my friends in England might ask, with a note of jealousy in their voices (as the freezing rain pelts at the window and they recall the last bank holiday spent shivering next to a despondent barbecue). “It’s like when you open the oven door,” I might reply. “It’s like that sort of roast-potato-browning, eyelash-curling, skin-slapping, hair-singeing, eyeball-drying heat.”
I shouldn’t complain, I know. Now the temperature is starting to drop a bit we will be able to spend our weekends on the beach or sitting on the balcony until late at night sipping cocktails – and I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to experience a different country, climate and way of life – it’s just that – and I’m embarrassed to admit it… I really like talking about the weather. Sounds silly, I know, and a frightfully British cliché, but it’s true. There isn’t really any weather to talk about over here. Sometimes it’s a bit hazy and sometimes humid, but other than that it’s pretty much the same. Every day. Now that has its benefits – I never have to worry about what I’m going to wear when I go out or panic about forgetting to bring a warm cardigan, kag-in-a-bag or emergency change of footwear. I can plan outfits, picnics, barbecues or excursions in advance without having to cross-reference three different weather reports, but what I can’t do is say to a colleague or acquaintance, “Blimey, it’s a bit gloomy today, isn’t it. Do you think it’s going to chuck it down again?” Sometimes, absent-mindedly, I’ll find myself saying to a taxi-driver, “Phew, it’s hot today!” and he will look at me pityingly, shake his head and say nothing. Or he might perhaps point in confusion to the temperature reading on his dashboard and say, “Only 38 degrees today, ma’am.”
It has rained I think six times since I moved here two years ago. The last time was in July; the sky darkened dramatically, the clouds crackled ominously, lightning danced above the skyscrapers and then it rained. Quite gently. For about three minutes. I had run outside and my hopeful face was turned up to the sky. The brief, warm drizzle was a bitter disappointment. I longed for a good rainstorm to clear the air – to clear my poor, well-cooked head, but before long the sun was out again. And I swear we have a different sun over here – it’s brighter and whiter and searingly, blisteringly, mercilessly hot.
It’s the lack of seasons that is strangest though, I think. Through the dampest of British springtimes or the coldest of winters, we always know that change is just around the corner – sometimes only a few days away. The changing seasons provide the rolling backdrop of British life, affecting every aspect of our existence from our wardrobes and how we spend our weekends through to the food we eat; there is a pleasing pattern to it all and a necessity – even for the city-dwellers among us – to be aware of nature and its rhythms. There is also, always, something to look forward to: the summer is over, but look at the glorious autumn leaves; the snow is melting to slush but see the tiny crocuses; the warmth of the bonfire has died, but soon there will be Christmas lights; the strawberries are finished, but the blackberries have only just begun… So as the temperature out here fades almost imperceptibly from hotter to merely hot, I will be using the magical interweb to follow the UK weather forecasts; for the time being it seems I’ll just have to get my meteorological kicks vicariously.