Heatwave blues - and breezes

British summers usually consist of brief bursts of heat, surrounded by several weeks of temperatures in the early twenties - this year we've had warm weather since April, and a heatwave since mid-June. Our agriculture and water supplies are predicated on regular, year-round rain - but apart from a couple of brief storms, it last rained in London almost two months ago. In view of our cold, dark winters, our homes are built and furnished to maximise light and retain heat - so air conditioning is usually only found in certain public buildings, offices and shops. All of which, I hope, will enable non-British readers to understand something of just how swelteringly, scorchingly, relentlessly hot the current heatwave feels in this part of the world, and how worrying its implications for our farmers and food suppliers - and indeed, for all of us.

Britons are accustomed to making the most of whatever scraps of sunshine fall our way, and that is what we started doing two months ago. But now we're seeking out sheltered spots and airy interiors, and while schoolchildren who have just begun their summer holidays might beg to differ, the rest of us are longing for rain, and delighted whenever there's even just an hour's cloudiness. Generally we're all drooping, languishing like any rain-starved garden. Collectively, we're tired: a good night's sleep is currently an elusive luxury for most of us, meaning grouchiness, and frazzled tempers as brittle as our straw-like grass. Stillness in prayer is also, for me, an elusive luxury, thanks to general stickiness, except for early in the morning, when - like the sun - I have yet to gather strength, or late at night. That's when I sit in the garden, reviewing the day and simply being in the jasmine-scented cooling breeze, before tiredness sends me indoors to bed, where temperatures rise as soon as I cross the threshold.

So here I am, tired, grouchy, and a willing participant in our national pastime of complaining about the weather...

But complaints aside, I do find myself feeling increasingly grateful for any refreshing breeze which comes my way, for cool floors and shady spots. I have started looking forward to driving or walking up any road canopied by tall, leafy trees, and relishing those sudden, fleeting winds which seem to appear out of nowhere. Places which were cold and draughty in the winter become 'light' and 'airy' in summertime - and suddenly so pleasant to be in. And then there are al fresco breakfasts and those late, late evenings in the garden... And so I had to smile, the other day, when, while searching for something else in Pope Francis' Gaudete et Exsultate I came across paragraph 127, in the section on joy and a sense of humour:

127. With the love of a father, God tells us: “My son, treat yourself well... Do not deprive yourself of a happy day” (Sir 14:11.14). He wants us to be positive, grateful and uncomplicated: “In the day of prosperity, be joyful... Whatever the case, we should remain resilient and imitate Saint Paul: “I have learned to be content with what I have” (Phil 4:11). Saint Francis of Assisi lived by this; he could be overwhelmed with gratitude before a piece of hard bread, or joyfully praise God simply for the breeze that caressed his face.

Do not deprive yourself of a happy day... Ah yes, the complaining can be fun, and a necessary outlet, but dwelling on the sweltering can make me forget the refreshing. It can skew my perception of how the day has been, depriving me of appreciation, as well as simple enjoyment. So tonight, as I sit outside beside the jasmine, I will review my day differently, focusing not on the effects of the oppressive heat, but on the places and moments of shelter and respite, and the gentle, long-awaited breeze caressing my face. And in such a day of prosperity I will be joyful and give thanks...


  1. Oh yes, I couldn't agree more. I have been reduced to a spot of Pollyanna and playing 'The Glad Game'. It is quite a challenge to come up with something every day. Thusfar my staples are: I am glad that I don't wear a gamp; I am glad that I don't really fancy chocolate.

  2. OK, two can play at that game!
    I'm glad I don't live in Abu Dhabi or Saudi or somewhere else much hotter than here.
    I'm glad I don't have to work outdoors.
    I too am glad not to be a pre-Vatican II religious in serge and starch.
    And I'm glad that melted chocolate tastes just as delicious as solid!


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