Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Wet-towel time: a useful indicator for a forbidden subject

A couple of pronunciation exercises from the early days of my studies of French stick in my mind. Roughly translated, the first was:

When an Englishman meets an Englishman, he says ‘how do you do?’, and the other replies, ‘how do you do?’ When a Frenchman meets a Frenchman, he says ‘how do you do?’ and the other starts talking about his health.

The second exercise was:

When a Frenchman talks about the weather, that simply means he’s incapable of talking about anything else. But to be a good Englishman, you have to know how to talk about the weather, the weather we have had, the weather are having, and the weather we might have in the future.

Both are simply encapsulations of national stereotypes, of course, but they contain a grain of truth – particularly the second. However, in defence of the English obsession with the weather, can I just say that we have plenty to be obsessed about?

Today is the Summer Solstice, at least up here in the Northern Hemisphere. That means that from now on we’re heading back towards winter, with the days getting shorter, day by day by day. Thats the natural order of things, and in itself nothing to complain about. 

Except that that we’ve still had nothing that could properly be called a summer. Just a couple of nights ago, we lit a fire to take the chill off the living room. Last week, I turned up drenched at work, although the walk from the station to the office only takes fifteen minutes, most of it under cover.

Applying my own criterion, the weather at the moment fails what I think of as the wet-towel test.

Britain failed the wet-towel test this year
Towels get dried in the summer by hanging them on the line outside. Dried by sun and air they come back in feeling fresh, fluffy and enjoyable.

In the winter, they get dried by hanging above a radiator pumping out heat. They end up less fresh but just as dry, and even warm. A process which leaves them equally enjoyable.

There is, however, an awkward transition. In the spring and autumn, there’s an intermediate period when the weather’s not cold enough for central heating, but not dry enough for hanging towels outside. This is what I think of as the wet-towel time. It usually lasts two or three weeks.

This year it’s lasted since April. On and on and on. Hang a towel out of doors, and it would come back sopping wet with rain. Put the heating on and you swelter indoors. The consequence? Every morning I have to dry myself with a towel still damp from the day before.

Which is not enjoyable.

And a pretty dismal statement about the state of the British weather.

The weather a forbidden subject? Well, OK, maybe. But this year it’s gone beyond a joke. Honestly, my dear, it’s just too ghastly for words. 

Apart from these few I’ve written about it.


Mark said...

Snowball is controling the weather.

David Beeson said...

I wouldn't put it past him...