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Monday, 2 July 2018

What heatwave? I just want to be in a pond....

As the temperature hit 29 degrees in London this week I recalled my very first heatwave. I was just two years old, travelling with my paternal grandmother  from Guernsey to England across the English Channel, then on by train to the Midlands. Granny had lived through the bitter winters of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands so, despite the May sunshine, had dressed me for  a trip to the Arctic Circle. Over my liberty bodice she added a blouse and warm woolly jumper, topped with a sturdy tweed jacket. Matching hand-made leggings that buttoned up the front (and wouldn't unbutton - I know because I tried) completed the outfit.

I got hotter and hotter, gasping for air, and as I looked out of the window, watching the fields go by, my eyes fell upon …. a pond. A large expanse of water. Probably the largest pond - at such a tender age - that I had ever seen. What followed was something dear Granny never forgot.

'I want to be in a pond and I'm not in a pond,' I wailed, to the amusement of  the other occupants of the compartment. 'I WANT TO BE IN A POND AND I'M NOT IN A POND.' My protestations got  louder until it was clear I wasn't going to stop. The amusement soon turned to irritation - then anger. Oh, what happy childhood memories.

 If you've ever wondered why we Brits talk about the weather all the time, the answer is simple. Firstly, we're obsessed with it. Secondly, we've simply no idea what to say to strangers. Now, as the temperature continues to rise, we can talk about it as much as we like. To taxi drivers, unsolicited telesales callers, postmen, policemen (if you're lucky enough to meet one) hairdressers, hotel staff - the list goes on.  No wonder our nation is immortalised for the words 'Turned out nice again.'

An American friend of mine who hails from Maine, New England, is  amused with the British obsession with winter weather. 'Snow drifts six foot deep, automobiles buried alive.' she says. 'That's how it is  at home in winter. But in Britain  the first snow fall makes headline news.' She has a point.

Several years ago, at a writers' retreat, we were asked to compose the opening paragraph of a contemporary novel. 'And make sure it's not about the weather,' warned the tutor.  This, I soon discovered, was very good advice.  Nothing, it seems, can be more boring than rain. (or lack of it.) There will always be exceptions to the rule, of course, such as the critically acclaimed opening to Charles Dickens' masterpiece Bleak House (reproduced below.)  But that really is the exception. My favourite opening of all  remains 'It was a dark and stormy night...' the one my mother  read out loud to me on a winter's evening when I couldn't get to sleep.

At the risk of showing my age I still love Martha and the Vandellas' 1963 hit Heatwave from the musical  As Thousands Cheer, which  must be ripe for a revival. And nothing evokes summer days more than the Beach Boys belting out Surfing USA.

When my elder daughter was growing up she was obsessed with Australian TV, full of beaches, barbeques and suntanned bodies. The teenage stars did occasionally go to school but most of their spare time was spent on the beach or by the pool. So, is that what we're doing now in Britain? Taking time off and heading for the beach? No, the workforce are carrying on as usual, the men removing their ties, the women taking a lunchtime dip, but none with the aplomb of our European counterparts.

So can I suggest we all find a pond. A very large pond. And, throwing caution to the wind, jump in it.

Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.

Charles Dickens - Bleak House



WILLIE........! =^..^= said...

If asked, I imagine most other nationalities would describe the British as a nation of tea-swillers, roast beef-guzzlers and queue-lovers with a somewhat unhealthy weather obsession....! :). HeHe!

However, can I just point out to those rolling in the aisles, at the Brits’ inability to cope with the odd flurry of snow, that you live in a country which has to deal with so many different weather permutations that it is just not feasible for you to invest in the infrastructure required for each and every one.
If I had the power to shift it all around a bit, I have to admit I would make winter shorter, forgo the UK’s “fifty shades of grey” days and ensure three months of good summer sun every year with no need for an August “wet weather plan”. Then I think the British weather would be pretty perfect!

And when my daughter was growing up the only Australian program we watched,
and that everyone used to watch..and that was 'Neighbours'...Glued to it 5:30..Brilliant!
But my own weakness was 'Dallas'..oooooO! HeHe! "Gimme some more". :0).

And, yes, l have a pond, nothing big...just 8x4 rather overgrown, at the
top of the fish..just frogs, toads, newts and snakes? Yes! Snakes..grass snakes, slow~worms, which is not a snake really, but a legless's 2ft deep, so, a bit pointless to jump into! And, besides l would'nt want to be crushed by a slow~worm or eaten by a frog...! :0).

But..I could make the trip down to Poole, there's a lovely big park, with a lovely big pond, jumping into that would be fun, and loads of ducks to play
with...though, you would be dragged out and possibly arrested..!
Oh! Well..C'est La Vie...! :0).

Guernsey Girl said...

My elder daughter was glued to Neighbours in the 1980s and, as soon as she could afford it, travelled to Australia to see the set where it was filmed. My second daughter made a friend whilst on a school trip to France and afterwards was invited to stay at her home in the South of England. On arriving home she told me. 'The house was huge. They had a lake in the grounds.'
'Invite her back,' I replied. 'We have a pond in the garden.'

Unknown said...

Hi maralyn its alan owen here was that really you at half moon bay café 2 days ago. So so sorry I didnt try to speak to you. You seemed to recognise me and I would love to speak with you. On my own now as anne passed away. well done for your success - brilliant. Without your help I would never have got that blackpool job thank you again for all that assistance. I really wish I had spoken but I couldn't believe it was you. please email if you can use my listed email account

Barbara Fisher said...

I’m so glad I didn’t miss this post altogether as I enjoyed it very much. I’ve been very remiss about visiting blogs of late, the summer sunshine might have had something to do with it, but now it’s raining, and I’m back. Sorry I can never resist ‘talking’ about the weather. :) x