The three-day summer

After a long winter, it turned warm here yesterday. Very warm in fact. The shorts were on, and walking Ollie over at Beetley Common, he was soon feeling the heat. Searching out a muddy pool of rainwater that had yet to dry out, he plunged in for a drink, and a cool down.

I could feel it too of course. The change in temperatures was dramatic, to say the least. We had gone from 13 C one day, to 24 C the next. Flies were active, bees were buzzing everywhere, and flowers had appeared overnight, all encouraged by the warmth. It seemed that the grass on our back lawn had grown by at least three inches in one day too. It was like living in a time-lapse sequence, where I could imagine watching everything bursting into life before my eyes.

Today is even warmer. Following a balmy night, I woke up to bright sunshine, and a warm day that is set to rise as high as 27 C. Watching the weather reports, they cheerily predict that Friday will be even hotter. Reporters on TV have shed their jackets, and everyone is talking about the arrival of one of the warmest spring periods in decades. But if you listen carefully to the weather report, and don’t get too excited, you will hear that it is predicted to cool down again on Saturday. Gradually creeping back down to a seasonal norm, with a very good chance of heavy rain and storms.

But I’m not complaining.

The three-day summer of 2018 was good while it lasted.

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Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Sunshine

Yesterday afternoon, the weather finally turned warmer. I was caught out on my walk with Ollie, and came home hot and bothered in my heavy coat. I changed into shorts later, and enjoyed watching the sun setting over the back garden. This morning, I woke up thinking about sunshine, with the weather forecasters predicting a steep rise in temperatures next week.

Most of my youthful memories are of being out in the sun. Summer holidays that always seemed to be warm and dry, blue skies, and trips to the beach. School holidays in July and August, always playing in the sunny streets of London, always hot and thirsty. Nobody ever talked about sunscreen, skin cancer, premature ageing, or cataracts in those days. They just got out in the fresh air, and enjoyed the end of winter.

By the time I was in my teens, I had been to the South of France, and experienced some really hot weather. Beaches too hot to walk on the sand, and humid nights that I wasn’t used to. Some people were beginning to move to countries like Australia, in search of better weather, more sun, and longer summers. One of my relatives had discovered Spain, and she was travelling to the sun on cheap holidays where the weather was more or less guaranteed to always be hot and sunny. By the time I had turned 21, I was keen to discover more such places, and a few years later, I went to Greece, with my first wife.

It was there that I first discovered that I could have too much of a good thing. Daytime temperatures in excess of 100 degrees F, and little relief from the heat at night. Sightseeing became a trial, and even resting on a beach soon became uncomfortable. I found myself retreating inside, sitting in the shade, or driving into the mountains to escape the extreme heat. I thought of those people who had flocked to Australia, experiencing their upside-down summers in six months of similar conditions, and wondered how they managed to go about their everyday lives in heat like that.

At least I was lucky in one respect. I had the sort of skin that tanned very well, and quickly too. Little or no sunburn, just a golden glow turning into a mahogany hue very rapidly. People took me for a local, and on returning to England, I was complimented on a suntan that lasted for months afterwards. So I carried on seeking sunshine abroad. Northern Spain, Turkey, Tunisia, Crete, Egypt, and Greece again. My main summer holiday each year supplied me with enough sunshine and heat to last the winter that followed.

Then everything changed. Sunshine was no longer our friend, we were told. Especially in hot countries like those mentioned, we should cover up, wear hats, use oily sunscreen, and avoid the strong sun at midday. Skin cancer was on the increase, and for many people, being out in the sun was actually very dangerous. So I started to visit cities instead of beaches. Amsterdam, with a similar climate to the East of England. Berlin, humid in the summer heat, and Barcelona, with lots of shade available. Bruges and Ghent, with worse weather than England, and Paris of course, with a climate almost identical to the one we left behind in London. Moscow and Leningrad, still snowbound and cold in late spring, and Beijing, with stifling heat, but little direct sunshine.

Over the last few years, we have settled for staying in England. No good weather guaranteed of course, but less danger from the ultraviolet radiation. Despite having that ‘good tanning’ skin, I am also someone who has quite a few moles on my face and body. Fear of them becoming affected by sunshine had me covering up, avoiding strong sun, and the countries where it is found.

So when I woke up to a sunny morning today, I was left thinking about how my perception of that much-desired sunshine has changed in sixty-odd years. I might have been happier never knowing.

Mud, and car problems

After some films and music posts as a diversion, I’m afraid it is back to woeful tales about the weather, and problems with technology. In other words, situation normal, in the world of beetleypete.

I am struggling to remember a (recent) year when the Winter dragged on for so long. OK, 1963 was a nightmare, but I was only 11 years old then. Since I last wore my shorts in October, it has been month after month of cold, rain, and even heavy snow for a time.More than six months of what feels like an endless Winter, confirmed by heavy rain all last night, and a foggy cold morning to wake up to today.

Walking Ollie in thick mud has been the subject of quite a few posts recently, and today was no exception. It is actually hard to keep upright once again, as I slip and slide trying to keep up with my dog. This wasn’t helped today, when he spotted a small Muntjac deer over on Hoe Rough, and took off after it excitedly. I had no chance of keeping Ollie in sight, let alone managing to follow him closely enough to make sure he was safe. Those small deer are not much bigger than him, but they are tough, and have tusks and antlers too. If Ollie managed to corner the frightened animal, he could have been injured.

But I could make little progress in the heavy mud he was skipping over, and it took me almost fifteen minutes to find him. He was hot and panting, but had obviously not managed to come into contact with the deer. So instead, he jumped into the muddy river to cool down, plunging into deep water up to his chin. Once he emerged, I had more than had enough, and began the slow stomp home, in mud-covered boots.

Yesterday, I had planned to go on my usual trip to the supermarket. But after starting my car, I was unable to get the gear selector out of Park. (It’s an automatic gearbox) No amount of fiddling around would seem to shift it, so I had to take Julie’s smaller car instead. On the way, I popped into the local car dealership where my car is maintained, and explained the problem. They don’t send people out, they told me. Nor do they arrange to collect cars on a trailer, to bring them in for repair. If I could get it into them, they could put it on their diagnostic scanner, and try to find the problem. I told them that if I could have got it there, then it would have been outside for them to examine, but they didn’t get the irony.

Last night, we contacted a friend of a friend who is a mechanic. He sent some advice by text. We also looked online, to discover many other owners with a similar issue, as well as some videos showing how it might be fixed. Many of these cars have a small opening into which you insert a screwdriver, to ‘reset’ the micro-switch that tells the gear selector to come out of Park. Mine being a so-called ‘Sport’ model, it doesn’t have that of course. More research revealed the electrical intricacies of a system that relies on lots of information to tell the six-speed gearbox when to change. This ranges from a connection to the rear brake lights to tell the car it is slowing down, to something on the rev counter that informs the gearbox to change up. I was past the limit of my car DIY skills, that was for sure.

I resorted to ‘fiddling about’ this afternoon. Turning switches on and off, and applying and reapplying the brakes. Still no joy. Then I remembered the ‘Sport Mode’ switch on the console. This changes the gearbox ratios, to give a sportier feel when driving, including stiffening the suspension. I never bother with this function usually, but tried switching it on and off anyway. Eureka! The gear selector freed out of park, and I was able to move it normally. Of course, I have no idea if this will provide a permanent fix, or if it will just stick in Park again tomorrow. So, it is booked in for that diagnostic scan next week, the earliest they could do it.

What happened to hitting things with a hammer?

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Beards

Have you noticed that beards are becoming very popular again? At one time, they seemed to be the preserve of musicians, sailors, explorers, old-fashioned tramps, or a certain breed of thespian. Then there were the beards grown for religious reasons, but an agnostic like me was never compelled to remain unshaven. I see so many now, that I sometimes wonder if I am the only person still buying razor cartridges and shaving foam.

A beard.

I have never had one. I never even tried to grow a moustache, let alone a beard. Like hats, I didn’t think it would suit me. Besides, I don’t actually mind shaving. It makes me feel clean and fresh, and is one of those small rituals of preparation for the day that allows a few moments of quiet contemplation. A few times in my life, I shelled out for an expensive barber shave. Cut-throat razor, hot towels after, and bay rum lotion that made your cheeks pucker up. That was a real shave, and I wish I could have one every day.

But back to beards. I started shaving when I was around sixteen years old. I am not a very hairy person generally, so one shave was enough to last two days back then. Within a couple of years, beards were all the rage. They were popularised by the likes of John Lennon, and seemed to accompany long hair too, for those men who grew it. By the time I was eighteen, I had a few friends who had grown pretty substantial beards, but I still wasn’t tempted. To be honest, I always thought they looked a bit dirty, as if the bearded man couldn’t be bothered to look clean and tidy. Although I knew this wasn’t true in most cases, I couldn’t shake that idea.

Another beard.

And they got wet when a beardy man had a drink. Crumbs and fluff and other stuff caught on them too. I resolved that they were not for me. The amount of time involved in growing one that actually looked substantial enough to qualify meant ages going through the early stages. The wispy strands we call ‘bum-fluff’ here, followed by weeks of looking as if I couldn’t be bothered to shave, finally ending up with something that looked like an old painting of Sir Francis Drake.

The other trend today is to not shave regularly, then call what is on your face a beard. These are not beards, just stubble on the faces of men who can’t be bothered to make the effort to use a razor.

NOT a beard.

Now I am well into my sixties, a beard is even more out of the question. It would grow out as white as snow, and unless I was thinking of getting a seasonal job as Santa, it would be pointless.

Funny what I think about sometimes, on a Sunday.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Chocolate, and hot cross buns

It’s Easter. I had to be reminded of the fact, as I am not (and have never been) remotely religious. All over the world, committed Christians are celebrating perhaps their most important religious festival, and I am more or less oblivious to their devotions.

I get mixed up. I thought last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, but that was wrong. But some things I am sure of. At Easter, we get chocolate eggs, as gifts. (Well most children do, anyway) And we can also buy hot cross buns. (They are not hot, unless you heat them up, which few people do now. But they have a pastry cross on them, for religious significance.) Trouble is, when I was young, you could only get those buns on one or two days of the year, obviously around Easter time. But now, you can get them all year round, so almost everyone has forgotten what they mean.

Same thing with those chocolate eggs. They used to be in the shops from the middle of March, but now they appear just after Christmas, being sidelined briefly for Valentine’s Day. Then there are Easter Cards (who sends them?) and small fluffy chick toys. They also pop up in early January, so by the time Easter arrives, they have usually been bought, put away, and forgotten. And Easter moves around. It is never on the same day, so it seems to an unbeliever like me. That makes it harder to keep track of, let’s face it.

Then there is the weather. In the UK, Easter is a long weeked. People are off from Thursday night, until Tuesday morning. But it’s at a time of year when the weather is notoriously unreliable in the British Isles. The redoubtable people of this sceptred isle still tend to go away somewhere anyway, if only to visit relatives, or to sit in a caravan by the coast. Then they can look at the grey skies, listening to the children complaining, as the rain beats down on the roof. Add to that the schools get a two-week holiday during some of the worst weather of the year, and you can guarantee a lot of very unhappy under-18s will be bemoaning their fate.

In some places, including many parts of the UK, religious people will be joyously celebrating whatever it is they celebrate at this time of year. Good luck to them, and I wish them well.

For the rest of us, it is too much chocolate, buns that are not hot, and too much time off, in abysmal weather. And no shops open on Easter Sunday, not even the greedy supermarkets. But that’s a good thing.

Happy Easter, to one and all.

Little Old Man

It was relatively warm, and quite sunny here today.

I took Ollie out for his usual walk, just before 2 pm. I could have got away with wearing shorts, but the mud is still heavy, so I had on trousers, and wellington boots. I felt quite lifted in spirit, during this first day of what could not only pass as Spring, but also perhaps an early Summer.

After the usual couple of circuits of Beetley Meadows, I considered heading into the small woodland area, just for a change. Ollie enjoys it in there, if the mud is not too deep. As I approached the gate, I noticed a family group approaching, with a Labrador dog. Ollie noticed them too, and rushed up to inspect the unfamiliar beige dog. I couldn’t keep up with him, so left him to it. There were no issues, as Ollie jumped around the small dog.

As I got closer, one of the children asked his Mum where the dog had come from. She smiled at the small boy, and answered, “It’s OK, he’s with that little old man”. My first reaction was to turn around, to see who she was talking about.

Then I realised she meant me.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Time passing

The clocks went forward here this morning, so I woke up having already lost an hour of the day. I will have to wait until October to get it back.

More significantly, it is the start of the last week in March. Three months of 2018 have passed, and it seems like only yesterday that I was putting the Christmas decorations back up in the loft. January and February were harder months this year. Worse weather than usual, seemingly endless cold, and even some worryingly deep snow. But even being trapped in Beetley, spending time huddling inside in the warm, failed to make those months pass at a ‘normal’ rate. They flew by, just as March has done.

I have written before about how time seems to go by much faster as you get older. And it’s getting worse. Weeks feel like days, and days are almost over before I am even out of bed. I have given a lot of thought to why this happens, and at first I just wrote it off as an ‘age thing’. But lately, I have had a complete re-think, and now have a new theory.

For those of you still working (the retired among us will just have to use memory) you will be aware how long a day at work can seem. When it feels like it must surely be time to think about getting ready to go home, you realise you haven’t even had your lunch break yet. Even in an interesting or exciting job, days can drag, I assure you. If you work a normal Monday to Friday routine (I didn’t) then the weekend always seems to go by at twice the speed of two weekdays. You get home on Friday, and before you know it, you are getting off to sleep on Sunday night, having to face another five long days at work. It seems to be a law of Time, that a Saturday and Sunday must pass twice as quickly as a Monday and Tuesday.

After spending far too much time thinking about all this unnatural bending of time, I woke up this morning with the solution in my head. It was so simple, I should have worked it out many years ago. Work. Work makes time slow. One year at work feels like five, and one day at work can seem like a week. Time never goes by too fast at work. Nobody looks at the clock at finishing time and asks, “Where did that day go?” Giving up work, whether intentionally as in retirement, or because you have lost your job for some reason, is the moment that time starts to accelerate. Leisure time is not work time, not in the sense we understand the 24 hour clock.

So perhaps we should never stop working? We might not live longer, but it would feel like it.