Friday, July 16, 2010


One of the things that strikes you on returning to England in the summer is the attitude to the sun. As soon as the temperature reaches 90ºF (about 32ºC) the press goes mad, predicting the end of the world, children reduced to cinders, en epidemic of heat stroke, and giving dire warnings about drinking lots of water, covering our heads and not jumping into rivers. The late unlamented government of dictatorial (and incompetent) puritans, inevitably tried to take all the pleasure out of summer by having us bury our children under tent fabric and smear ourselves with inch thick gunge, lest we be tempted to relax and enjoy ourselves.

Where I live we have had 90º for a month or so, and it usually start around mid-May, and the world has not ended. Here in the country it is now mid-30’s every afternoon and will soon be higher. It cools down at night, which is one of the reasons we come here, but in the town where I live it is hotter still, and 90º is what you get at three in the morning.

Here on the farm we don’t go out between about 1 and 7PM if we can help it, because it’s asphyxiating heat which can sap you of energy and dehydrate you quickly, especially if the air is humid (not that it often is). And prolonged exposure of the nape of the neck or hairless parts of the head can, occasionally, result in sunstroke. But if we have to, we do. All those who work on the land do, too, and they survive it.

The sun is more important than the heat, in fact. Only an idiot will allow himself to get dehydrated, since a healthy person has to try very hard to reach that state, whatever the weather, and repeatedly ignore the very obvious messages the body is sending out. Serious sunstroke is very rare and is also difficult to achieve unless you ignore the fact that your head is burning.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that you can get sunburnt in England, you can become dehydrated and you can suffer from sunstroke, despite the great differences in temperature between there and here. Perhaps the reason people get so nervous about the sun (apart from the press and the government telling them every evening that they’re lucky to be alive) is that they see it so rarely. When you are used to burning sun almost every day from May to October you learn what it is and what to do about it. It doesn’t frighten you, and the government knows that. They issue warnings, but just to let you know. They are not accompanied by reams of advice and morose Jeremiads.

The message from your friendly blogging hedgehog, then, is this: it is quite possible to enjoy the summer, and I hope you will.

No comments: