Friday, 14 December 2007

Whatever the weather...

Today, in Canterbury, it’s cold with that kind of dense, high cloud which dampens everything beneath it and looks as if it could produce snow for days on end. In my book, however, it is the hottest of hot summers. Riot weather. What, didn’t you know that riots are much more likely to happen after a spell of unusually hot weather? Frays the nerves. The police pray for rain when things look like kicking off, I’m told. Perhaps, instead of breaking out the baton-rounds and riot shields when going to confront stone-throwing, Molotov-cocktail heaving mobs, they should consider seeding clouds instead. Or directing their water-cannon skywards and letting the jets drop as the gentle rain from heaven upon the yobs beneath… But I digress, clearly.

It’s not easy writing about hot, sweaty, dessiccated days when you’re watching the other half take boiling water out to de-frost the windscreen every morning and fighting a losing battle with the carbon-footprint conscience about whether to turn the heating on during the day. (Did I? Yes, I did, but I went and turned all the thermostatic valves in the house (apart from the kitchen and adjacent rooms where I live and move and have my writing) off. And, as the Other Half says in order to salve my conscience, it must be easier to maintain an even warmth in the house than to have to heat it up from scratch each afternoon at 4.30 when the heating comes on again. Actually, since we live in a terrace, most of the house stays pretty warm but the kitchen’s a single-storey extension with the resultant outside wall issues.

All of wich which makes it much harder to write about a West Wales in the grip of a heat wave. The other thing which makes it difficult to do is that my only real-life experience of West Wales in heat wave happened in 1976 and a lot of memory-loss-inducing water has gone under the bridge since then.

Putting myself in the place of people who can’t sleep because it’s so hot, who are slathering sunblock on to avoid turning into purple-coloured crisps, whose footsteps send up dust on the farm lane is hard when I’m shivering, typing in fingerless gloves and drinking even more tea than usual in a bid to warm myself from the inside.

I’m listening to my characters expressing feelings of bliss when they walk into the cool of an old building, feeling the cold stone flagstones cool their hot, throbbing feet whilst I’m wondering if the sun will ever shine down from a clear blue sky again, if I’ll ever be able to go out in a t-shirt and jeans without freezing to death.

At one point today, I was trying to conjour up the plants which would be wilting in the July heat my characters are living through. We’ve got precious little to amuse us in the vegetation department at the minute so it’s quite hard to remember just how rampant an old West Walian hedgerow can get in terms of flora. But if I close my eyes and walk in my imagination along the little back road past Dangraig farm, Y Gaer and up to Brongwyn church I can see the stitchwort, herb robert and red campion in front of my eyes. Toadflax’s brilliant yellow and speedwell’s heavenly blue grow in sunny patches and there might even be the odd bit of ragged robin where a spring makes the ground damp.

There, not too difficult to do when you’ve got a particular place in mind.

Strangely, I didn’t find it at all difficult, last summer, writing about West Wales in the rain…

by the way, the change of font-size is due to some difficulties some people have been having with lines disappearing from the screen. sorry if this is a bit small... please let me know if it's an issue and I'll try with other fonts rather than other sizes.

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