Long hot summer

Garry Winogrand | 1964
Garry Winogrand | 1964

It’s turning into a long hot summer. The projected high for today is 32c. I like it, though I keep my shutters mostly closed which means it can feel a bit claustrophobic at times (although the flat is thankfully fairly spacious and has high ceilings).

What have I been up to? Freelancing, scoping for my next permanent role, a bit of travelling. The recent travelling has been of the UK sort, starting in Leeds (Harewood House and some other sights) and then on to Newcastle to stay with friends. That included trips almost as far as the Scottish border – to Bamburgh Castle. Weather very good overall (huge contrast to the last time I was up north).

Not a great deal else going on. I am still doing lots of cooking – probably worthy of another post as I have two (new) favourite chefs now whose books I’m addicted to, but who aren’t part of the mainstream ‘Nigel and Nigella’ crowd.

The one major annoyance is that Google Reader is no more. That is what drove my ‘recommended reading’ on my blog, which I also used as a blogroll of sorts to keep up with others’ posts. With that gone, I’m left somewhat high and dry. I know there are alternative things (like Feedly) but I want to embed all of my RSS feeds into one and then promote on my blog – as before!

I have also left self-hosted and am back on wordpress.com (albeit with my own URL). No real reason to go self-hosted I don’t think – I’ve always risked the ‘style over substance’ going down that route and it’s never really led to increased output from me. So I’m going for a very simple template now. The one thing I miss that you can’t do on wp.com (unlike on self-hosted) is the ‘related content’ plug-in which works really well. And when you have 800+ blog posts on your site, as I do, it’s particularly valuable. Oh well, maybe one day wp.com will implement it.

Anyway, hope those in my old network of readers/bloggers are doing well. I will be catching up on others’ sites.

Sweaty, Betty

The temperature has soared since the end of last week. Today wasn’t really an exception. I have my usual 8.30am Monday meeting (the leadership team meet and I’m what might best be called a ‘peripheral participant’). One doesn’t really speak unless spoken to. And there feels like so much dissension between the directors I find the whole thing inherently draining. But I digress.

Temperatures in the UK are soaring. Not a cloud in the sky. This is real, summer weather. The day isn’t desperately long and I leave at 6pm – early for me. The tube is hot but bearable. The train, on the other hand, is something else. It’s boiling. Sweating people are over-represented. I’m not keen on sweat. I always wear thin v-neck white t-shirt/vest items under my shirts. Sheridan has always wondered why, assumed it odd, put it down to eccentricity, that kind of thing. I have told him, though, on countless occasions – that when I lived in Japan in the late 90s – almost all the men wore such items under their shirts. You know why? It absorbs the sweat meaning you don’t end up with horrid damp patches on your shirt. I really am not a fan of that mosaic of dampness that appears on the back of a man’s shirt – or even worse – those dark, Dickensian orbs that appear under the arms. I just don’t like it. So I retain a permanent ‘when in Rome’ mentality at this time of year. I defer to and emulate those in the East – in hotter, stickier climes – who know far better how to deal with this oppressive heat than we do.

And I do everything possible to avoid getting too close to demonstrably sweaty people. I abhor the foetid smell of body odour. Of course it afflicts some more than others. Thankfully I don’t sweat all that much and I don’t use anti-perspirant – only deodorant. I use French or Italian brands (my favourite being the high street Italian brand – Borotalco) and every (week) day I will use aftershave – invariably L’Occitane’s Eau des Beaux. And yes – it is because I want to come out smelling of roses. And no, the ‘Lynx effect’ – beloved by the Middle-England male – does not do it for me.

All in all – loving the hot weather but so very not loving commuting in it. Of course, in one week’s time I will be commuting by bus – from within zone 1 – and tube journeys will be ancient history.

Summer in the city

So it’s been pretty hot this weekend. 29c yesterday and 30c today in London. After several lousy summers I have this feeling that this could turn into a long, hot, extended one. Just like winter was far colder than any we’ve had in many years – unusually pronounced – so it might just be so with summer.

Yesterday involved antique shopping (S bought a dark Georgian chest of drawers), from the same place I bought mine from a few years ago; we go to this place all the time, it’s great. We then had lunch at a local restaurant that I had taken family to last weekend. I had moules mariniere which was pretty good but not as good as when you have it in the south of France, with fat Spanish mussels from just over the border. It’s one of those dishes that, to me, is just not quite the same as having it on the continent. Of course, the same is true with things like croissants, French baguettes, that type of thing. But it wasn’t bad.

From there, on to do a food shop at Sainsbury’s. I resisted buying any wine as have really been overdoing the drinking just recently. I did buy half a dozen bottles of Eridinger Weißbier, though, which is a favourite (German) beer of mine. Try it if you haven’t as it has a great taste that is infinitely more satisfying than cheap standard ‘lagers’:

erdinger weissbier

In the evening we went to a classical music concert. S is very into all that, unlike myself who will readily admit to inherent philistinism. Elgar’s cello concerto in E minor and something of Wagner’s (I forget the name) were part of the programme and it was very good. 60 instrument orchestra. One of S’s colleague’s wives is in the orchestra.

Today has been uneventful, primarily because it’s been so hot. I watched the football though felt quite disconnected. A shame for the fans that England was thrashed 4-1 by Germany but there we go.

Not looking forward to this temperature being maintained into the coming week as commuting by tube in this weather is invariably horrid.

The remains of the day

As far as I’m concerned, Bank Holiday Monday earlier this week marked the end of summer. The day commenced both cloudy and drab – but it finally turned into a beautiful late summer’s day. Dark blue skies, no humidity, a bit of a breeze. I sat in S’s garden for most of the afternoon and enjoyed it, just reading a book.

As well as lunch, we had dinner al fresco. He did steak. I made home-made potato wedges that were a welcome change. I think we had steamed whole carrots (I insist on eating them this way having read an article on the BBC website about the associated health benefits). We drank water (he drinks more water than any other friend I have – keeping 3 chilled bottles in the fridge at any one time). I don’t think we had pudding.

On Tuesday the weather was pretty awful. Big deterioration. Heavy cloud if I recall correctly. Yesterday it was squally and we had a lot of rain in the evening.

Summer is over. The humidity – which for me has been synonymous with this summer – has gone. People are starting to wear coats. Trench-coats seem especially popular this season. I’m already seeing scarves being worn.

Today I wore my light, black mac. I’ve not yet reverted to the drawer of v-neck cashmere jumpers that I wear throughout most of the cold period (which in this country is 8-9 months of the year). But it’s only a matter of time.

Summer this year was an anti-climax and the papers told us as much. The British public were especially peeved by the Met Office who had told us in early spring that we were ‘odds on’ for a great summer. Only, the odds weren’t in our favour. We had two pristine weeks in June (which, amazingly, coincided with Wimbledon). July was really pretty crap overall. Very humid. Mostly cloudy.  A fair bit of rain. Limited sun. The jet-stream had, very annoyingly, moved directly over the UK and seriously inclement weather became the consequence.

August has been marginally better but not by much. Southern Europe has experienced a heatwave but that, unsurprisingly, has missed us. I am hoping for decent weather when I’m in France in a fortnight.

But it’s now autumn and this is my favourite season. I’ve experienced a ‘fall’ in New England and also one in Japan and in both countries it was sublime. Incredible foliage, obsidian blue skies, leaves on the ground, that cool, crisp, clear air that can and only ever will be autumn. I love it. And I like the clothes and colours of autumn. I like maroons and browns and greens especially. I like old cords and light to medium jackets. I like scarves although only when the wind is up. I love the cool but not yet ‘cold’ breeze and seeing flurries of leaves.

Glad it’s autumn and hoping it will be a good one.