Paris: The Heat (la chaleur)

Tour Clovis against the stark blue of the merciless sky

The other night, as I lay in bed sweating, I reminded myself of those people I knew who spent time in Kashmir. They would get up in the middle night and take cold showers in their pyjamas then lie in bed with the fan on to cool down as the clothing dried off. I reminded myself that the heat in Cyprus was worse (comme un four), that in Toronto both the heat and the humidity were worse. That I had, therefore, lived and slept through worse.

However, when you are hot and cranky, reminding yourself that elsewhere or othertime there is more suffering of the same kind to a degree worse than at present doesn’t really do you any good. It does not suddenly cool you down. You still have a mass of sweaty, curly locks on your pillow. You can still feel your sticky limbs every time you move. You can still feel the closeness of the air.

On Saturday in Paris, it was very hot. Il faisait chaud comme l’enfer. The sun was beating down all day with nary a cloud in the sky. Theoretically, this is the sort of day that people dream about. Ah, ben oui, il fait beau!

Ben non!

Notre Dame in Saturday’s clear sky

I didn’t check how hot Saturday got. All I know is I think I sunburned my lips. The water in my water bottle was warmer than the still-warm-enough-to-drink tea from near the bottom of a pot. My arms, slathered in sunscreen, were glowing red. Sure, I saw the Tour Clovis (if that is Merovingian, they discovered Gothic before 511!), the Panthéon, the Crypte Archéologique beneath the square in front of Notre Dame and some late antique ruins and artifacts, and a second visit to Notre Dame. And I ate gyros (Thelo ena gyro, parakalo. Kotopoulo. Kypriaki — except the staff were Sri Lankan and they only had the ‘small’ Elliniki size).

Sure. But it was hot. Ethan, I understand, looked like death. White as a sheet.

Sunday afternoon it reached 37 by 14:00 and 38 several hours after that. I know those of my audience who dwell in, say, Cyprus or Toronto will say, ‘Bah! That is nothing!’ or possibly laugh at me and mutter in Latvian. But I have spent the past two years in Scotland.

And this year in Scotland, we had a mild winter that I think may have stopped a few weeks ago. Cloudy. Rainy. Rarely warmer than 18. A stiff breeze from the North Sea cutting through everything in Edinburgh. A bit monotonous after a few months.

But at least you can put on another sweater or scarf or a heavier coat or gloves or something.

And here’s my problem with the heat. Here’s why, while I no doubt complain about the weather at times, I complain almost incessantly about the heat. Not only is it sticky, slick, sweaty, uncomfortable, and inescapable in most places I’ve lived (I’m sweating right now!), you can only get so naked.

That’s right.

As I said, you can always put on another sweater. But you can’t take off another layer of clothing. Eventually you will be naked. And thus, you will either be indecent for public display or still hot, sticky, and gross if you opt to stay at home.

Thankfully, some guy a hundred years ago invented air conditioning. The people of Toronto and Cyprus understand this concept. You cool down the air so that people can dress and feel normal. Suddenly, Matthew stops complaining. He might even smile.

Paris. Ah, Paris. I hear that the shopping malls are air-conditioned. And Starbucks. And the cinéma. But pretty much nowhere else. Rumour has it that the cafés avec les salles ‘climatisées’ never have the heat turned up enough.

So I am left a sweaty, grumpy monkey.

You just can’t please me. (But at least there is une brise right now and the temperature has been dropping the past few days.)

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