Tag Archives: weather

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.)

Windy Edinburgh

Me, My hat, and Sir Walter Scott

I am a wearer of a hat.* My hat is a black felt cap with the added feature of ear flaps that can fold down if needed. I think this hat is awesome. The only trouble with wearing a hat in Edinburgh is that, well, Edinburgh is windy.

On Tuesday this week, for example, I was crossing Princes Street at North Bridge (meaningless if you don’t know the city, but whatever; google it). As I crossed, the wind grabbed my hat and tossed it into the middle of the intersection (if it wasn’t the wind, it was a fairy, goblin, or gremlin).

North Bridge hits Princes Street as a T-intersection at a statue of the Duke of Wellington. We pedestrians were allowed to cross because the cars turning right (like a left in most of the civilised world) had a green. My hat landed approximately three feet from the outside edge of the turning cars.

I watched as they all drove past my hat. Determining that no car would hit either me or the hat I approached the hat. Then I waited until a bus was turning and grabbed the hat while the bus was beside it. I carried my hat until I was across North Bridge and on the Royal Mile.

This was not an isolated incident. One time, my hat was snatched by the wind, and I turned to see it descending from at least a metre or a metre and a half above my head. Thankfully it landed on the pavement (sidewalk). Another time, at the intersection of Lothian Road and Fountainbridge, the fences that the city erected along Lothian caught my hat before it could be blown into traffic.

My hat is not the only victim of these winds, however.

I used to own an umbrella. A good, sturdy £16 umbrella. Bought it at Boots when we first arrived.** It was a rainy, windy September day, and I was on my way to study, so I had to go up Granny’s Green Steps. These (as in this photo) are a very steep flight of stairs that go right up the side of the craggy, extinct-volcano-hill-thing upon which the castle stands. In order to keep the rain from soaking me and the wind from snatching away the umbrella, I angled my umbrella into the wind as I mounted the steps.

And then the spokes that go out from the stick in the middle (I know nothing of umbrella parts), the ones that hold the umbrella open (yeah, those ones) — half of them collapsed. They bent the wrong way.

Most people get their umbrellas destroyed by the wind turning them inside not, not the wind collapsing and imploding them. But I am not most people, and the high-speed, North-Sea winds that blow into Edinburgh are not normal winds.

These winds are cold and, as you can see from the above, strong. So the BBC will tell you that it’s going to be 10 above. Great! That’s balmy for many Canadians. Aye, but then there’s that wind, eh? Cold, bitter, driving, cutting through everything but wool. Lots of wool.

No wonder Scots raise so many sheep.

So if you ever come to Edinburgh, come equipped for the wind and leave behind your umbrella.

*Not a wearer of hats given that I wear only one.

**Maybe my problem is buying umbrellas at drug stores; I dunno.