Getting hot under the collar about the ‘lovely’ weather


I understand that people are just trying to be polite. Establishing common interests is one way of making a connection with professional acquaintances. If, however, I receive one more email that begins “Hope you are enjoying this lovely weather” (or some similar construction) I may find myself running amok with a lethal weapon.

Too many people are regarded as crazy for holding perfectly reasonable views. People exist who still regard Leonard Cohen’s ditties as music for 1970s baby-sitters. Some perfectly sane, politically sound folk have never found Bill Hicks’s bellowing in the least bit amusing. (I feel myself rapidly losing Irish Times readers by the score.)

Then there are those of us who genuinely don’t like hot weather. A mild spring day will do very nicely. Those early autumn days that are ever-so-slightly seasoned by the sting of winter deserve their celebrations in romantic poetry. But the constant, nagging, oppressive heat that – at time of writing, anyway – continues to broil the nation could only be more unpleasant if accompanied by a plague of tsetse flies.

Let me here issue a collective response to those well-meaning correspondents who have, on no decent evidence, taken my enthusiasm for subtropical fug as a given. Thank you for your inquiry. No, I have not been “enjoying the lovely weather”. I find it bloody horrible. Because I have a big red Armagh head on me, no hat will fit properly and I am forced to plonk an item on the peeling scalp that – remembering Bob Dylan’s Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat – balances “like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine” (or the other way round).

Fear of heat exhaustion
Unable to wear a jacket for fear of heat exhaustion, I am forced to cram wallet, phone, keys, pen and change into trousers that, slumping beneath the weight, now sit lower than those of the average teenage hip-hop enthusiast. People force me to eat outside with the flies. The street stinks on rubbish day.

We’ve gone past the point where news bulletins carry numbingly cheery footage of babies eating ice cream and panting dogs being cooled with garden hoses. The newsreaders now issue grave warnings to any fool considering an adventure outdoors. The woman on Sky has just clarified that those at particular risk include the elderly, the very young, heart patients, sufferers from respiratory ailments and people from Northern Ireland. I may have made the last bit up.

My purpose, however, is not to complain about the weather (well, not entirely). Almost as irritating as the pervasive heat is the horror – indeed, sheer disbelief – that many people express when you demur from the great, sweaty consensus. They imply that this is some sort of disingenuous pose. Why, nobody could really think anything so absurd.

Evangelical sun-worshippers
The more evangelical sun-worshipper will purse his or her mouth into the sort of cat’s-bum shape that suggests genuine offence has been taken. For heaven’s sake, don’t say that. The mighty, forever-attentive deity that controls the weather will hear you and cause the temperature to fall a few degrees.

If only . . .

Your attitude to the weather has a profound effect on how you view the world and how you remember your own life. “Doesn’t it now seem as if every day of your childhood was lived beneath glorious, golden sunlight?” the sun bores say.

No, not at all. I remember lots of rain (which was all right, if a bit wet), a great deal of cloud (nicely positioned in front of the filthy sun) and lashings of good, bracing wind (useful for summoning more clouds into the picture).

I do, mind you, remember the utterly horrible, seemingly endless summer of 1976. Thanks to the dilation of time that comes with childhood, this revolting period – during which cows exploded and trout were boiled in their own rivers – appeared to last about 3½ years.

Throughout it all, I found myself repeatedly being asked the most infuriating question that any child can endure. “What? You’re going to the cinema on a nice day like this?” Yeah! What else would I be doing? Playing awful football? White-water rafting? Robbing banks with Patty Hearst? (That’s a topical reference for you, there.)

Which brings us to our conclusion. Whereas good weather drives citizens away from Irish cinemas, it actually lures punters towards such establishments in the United States. The movie theatres are cool. They’re soothingly dark. Nobody in there is likely to ask you to play Swingball. In Lawrence of Arabia, Prince Feisal notes that: “No Arab loves the desert. We love water and green trees.”

Only those not used to hot weather crave it so pathetically. The Spanish go for a snooze during the warmer hours. The French shut down their businesses for a month. And the Americans go to the cinema. Very sensible of them.

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