Monday, 22 July 2013

How to keep your toes in the heat

Mid July and the heatwave continues, pushing 30 degrees during the day, not dropping much lower than mid teens at night. While far from my favourite weather so far I seem to be managing: remembering to drink enough, slathering on the sun block (which I detest with great passion) and developing a knack for finding jobs which happen to be in the shade. Sartorial standards have slipped; first it was an untucked shirt, then an open shirt over a t-shirt, and now the over shirt is usually abandoned almost instantly. But that’s as far as it goes. That, and the fact that my hairy white calves have been on show for the past month or so, though displaying a marked reluctance to develop anything which could be described even vaguely as a 'tan'.

Meanwhile, Bill has taken to flopping around like a discarded teddy bear, gazing accusingly at me from limpid brown eyes as if the weather is some cruel trick engineered by me solely for his discomfort. To be fair his fur is presently providing him with a luxuriant but entirely unwelcome system of insulation, but it will be several weeks yet until his thick top coat is ready to be stripped out.

Today as the thermometer nudged 32 I found myself engaged in a session of digging. That ideal winter activity, when the ground is soft and there’s little else to do in the garden. How come I have so much of it to do at the moment, when the ground is baked hard and... well actually growth rates are beginning to slow down again. This is just how things have worked out, and so it is a matter of good fortune that I enjoy the task, even under a merciless sun with the sweat pouring down my face. To be honest, there’s not much else I’d want to do in this weather, and if you’re going to work yourself into a lather you might as well commit yourself to the job and just hope nobody gets downwind of you. On hotter days I carry with me a bandana with which to wipe away the odd bead of perspiration from the noble brow. Today this was wringing wet within seconds but, I thought to myself, no matter – the sun will surely dry it in no time at all. And sure enough, draped over the t-handle of a handy half moon edging tool, the cloth was soon ready for service once again. It was at this point I realised that while the water content of my industrious sap had become as one with the atmosphere, the salty portion had remained on the cloth, which being wiped across my face now felt not dissimilar to the application of a piece of course sandpaper to the steaming boat.

But things could be worse. I read in the Daily Telegraph – which surely means it must be true – that the recent unseasonal summery weather in summer has resulted not only in the death of over seven hundred people but, no less shockingly, an unprecedented rise in the number of toe amputations seen in the nation’s hospitals. Evidently a hitherto unknown side effect of heat exhaustion causes affected people to dash into the garden wearing sandals or – horror – even barefoot, and recklessly fire up the strimmer, with consequences that can only be imagined, though I’d rather not. Not being blessed with anything more generous than average height I favour a bent shaft for the tool in question and am quite aware that what I gain in manoeuvrability and ergonomic comfort, I loose in unintended strimming of my own feet. And so when last week I noticed with some alarm that my trusty, clumpy steel toe-capped chelsea boots had developed an unexpected degree of additional ventilation I was the very embodiment of efficiency when it came to acquiring a replacement pair. (The old boots will now have something appropriate planted in them, to undoubtedly charming effect.)

Of course, thick socks and heavy safety boots do not make for the coolest of feet in this weather. Still, mustn’t grumble – I still have a full complement of toes. And there’s rumour of rain tomorrow.