Summer Heat

We Brits are fickle about the weather. 

We complain when it’s too cold, too windy, too wet or too hot. We complain especially when the country’s main weather provider, the Met Office, is unable to predict our changeable weather from one day to the next. I reserve special animus for this forecaster’s tactic of getting it all wrong, again, then updating their site on the day in a shameless attempt to pass it off as though they had known it all along. 

The fact that their staff live across the road from me and their main office is in Exeter, just a few miles up the road, one would have thought that they could do the decent thing and admit they could do no better than me: to take a mark 1 eyeball, and cop a glance out of the window across the hills and tors of Dartmoor.

I still remember the long hot summer of ‘76 when I burned badly after a day at the beach and my mother had covered my sensitive, pink skin in calamine lotion with cotton wool. The cotton peeled away and stuck to me so that I resembled a malnourished, forlorn and badly shorn sheep. 

Of course, these days, with the moolah to be made on the back of climate change, the Met Office is happy to oblige with forecasts of disaster around every corner.

It really does play havoc with the tee times. (After a hiatus of some 20 years I have taken up the gentlemanly sport of golf and can often be found zig-zagging across the local course).

England is about to break all records for the hottest temperatures, so the forecasters say. In parts of the UK it could reach 40 degrees centigrade.

Here in coastal South Devon we are usually spared such extremes, but even so, the air now envelops like the embrace of a sweaty uncle.

So oppressive has been the atmosphere this week that we purchased a fan and an eight foot, oval shaped paddling pool. The fan was to assist nighttime sleeping and the pool was for daytime wallowing and to give the dogs somewhere to cool down too, should they so desire.

I was disinclined to buy anything plastic and upset any environmentalists- and to shove in 500 gallons of Devon’s finest tap water seemed frivolous- but necessity won out over any pangs of guilt I might have felt.

Indoors and out it was a stinker.

As I set out to inflate the top ring of the pool with a hand pump upon what most nearly resembled a flat piece of ground at the top of the garden, the sun reached its zenith and beat down with ever greater ferocity, its heat becoming trapped underneath a thin layer of cloud as freshly baked cakes under a tea cloth. 

My reward would be the lovely cooling water, I told myself.

Sweat exuded from every pore and ran down my nose in a steady drip. Merely bending over to select the most appropriate valve from a box caused my face to redden and I almost forgot to breathe. 

Still, It would be worth it, I told myself again, as I staggered slightly at this mild exertion.

A breathless silence had fallen over the garden. The birds had taken ground cover under the bushes and even the bees that usually bustled, buzzed and hummed around the lavender seemed to have taken the afternoon off. 

Had my father still been alive, I feel certain that even he would have relaxed his sartorial standards by loosening his National Trust tie and rolling up his shirt sleeves in military fashion. 

I removed my sweat-soaked tee-shirt revealing my golfing tan in all its glory. Something I had not had since those halcyon days of the seventies when the summers were endless,  men were unequivocally men and Jimmy was busy fixing it.

I now sported pubescent, hairless breasts, where once had been a taught, manly chest and I felt a tinge of embarrassment despite the solitude.

I laid out a ground sheet and spread the pool upon it, satisfied with the thickness of the plastic- especially for a mere thirty quid, but nagging doubts about how the thing would stay up disturbed my frazzled brain. The weight of the water would provide stability, the instructions reassured.

I had, in preparation, assembled an assortment of pumps and nozzles: an electric pump, a bicycle pump and paddle board pump, congratulating myself that all bases were covered. None however fitted the small hole in the paddling pool and I mopped the stinging sweat from my eyes whilst searching for inspiration. Even thinking was difficult in this heat. 

Olive, the youngest of my border terriers, came to see what was going on, wagged her tail lazily, licked some of the salty sweat from my leg then slumped in the shade of a low wall under a bamboo, looking on with dignified interest at her master’s endeavours. Mad dogs and all that. 

I managed to pump the outer ring to a satisfactory firmness owing to the ingenious adaptation of the raw materials present and after a brief pause to steady the rapidity of my breathing and heart rate,  I began to fill the pool with a hose. 

Rather like the old adage of a watched kettle never boiling, the blasted thing seemed as though it would never fill and it swallowed up the water like a sponge. The cool water had flowed generously from the end of the hosepipe, sure enough, but after nearly half an hour of keen observation it had barely formed a small puddle at one end of the pool- barely enough to quench the thirst of a raiding party of gnats or to cover the kneecaps of the resident Robin. 

I had to be on hand to smooth out any wrinkles as it filled, said the instructions. That the nearly flat ground where I had situated the pool was in the hottest part of the garden where there was no shade to be had, made the ordeal in this fiery furnace hard to bear. 

To describe my garden in the words of PG Wodehouse: ‘its interior was still something which only Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have entered with any genuine enjoyment.’

Slowly the clock ticked as if father time himself had taken up a straw boater and a hammock and had taken forty winks in these exceptional conditions. And thimble by thimble to pool began to fill.

The dog retreated indoors, the robin refused to come out and it may have been my imagination or a mirage, but I thought I saw the gnats doing backstroke and enjoying a spot of water polo.

Three full hours later the pool was nearly full. A slight slope gave the appearance of deep and shallow ends but I was confident it could hold a fully submerged human. 

The water was cold and inviting. I was fully costumed and ready.

In the space of time it took me to rewind the hose on its stand and return again, the filled pool- once shapely and taut -had developed a concerning middle aged spread- perhaps mimicking the brief lifecycle of the gnats that had once bathed in its cooling depths. 

Taking care not to squash the sides, I gently lowered my bulk into the pool, suddenly remembering the physics of water displacement. 

It began as a small wave. The soft underbelly of the pool quivered as a beached jellyfish – or a large stomach trying to digest a disagreeable meal. 

The water shifted alarmingly to one side of the great stomach. Time again stood still for a moment. The birds and bees held their breath- then the pool vomited it’s entire contents onto the firm ground. 

I sat in the baggy pool aghast. It had all been for nothing. My intentions had been honourable, you see. I intended to empty the water, when the time came, into the garden and onto my bee-friendly plants to save the planet- but alas the thing was done and the water found its way to the nearest drain. A terrible waste.

Ah well! That’s life I suppose, I said to nobody in particular. 

Footnote:

As our elite masters  try to save the planet by bankrupting the middle and lower classes and starving the poorest of fuel and food in their drive towards net zero (coincidentally the same figure we will soon have in our bank accounts) I hope they will remember that other adage – ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

In the words of cosmologist, Brian Cox, “It could be that we are the only island of meaning in an ocean of 4 billion suns.”

That meaning is conferred only to the conscious mind of humanity and the good Lord who made us.

And made in the image of an invisible God, as I believe we are, let no man play god and decide what is best for us. 

Use those marvellous brains to provide mutually beneficial technologies by all means, but let God be God. 

1 thought on “Summer Heat”

  1. Jim, I feel your pain having just filled our paddling pool ready for the Grand Kids, and for my use as well😀 no leaks as of yet but will be surprised if it lasts the w/e…..

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