It's a cruel thing, the climate in south eastern England. Not (usually) in the extreme ways that other nations suffer; there are no monsoons causing annual flooding and suffering for thousands of already impoverished families, and there are no hurricanes laying waste to entire cities. But in a subtle way, us poor, pampered, had-it-too-easy-for-too-long Londoners are waging an ongoing struggle.
An example from my office this week: my good friend and colleague Anthony (not his real name; his real name's Sarah) had taken a trip away for the weekend. To put it as kindly as humanly possible, the man is a slap head. Ok, that wasn't very kind but I tried my best. Anyway, he is certainly lacking in growth in the upper regions of his head. Nature may have made a few errors here, since he's one of the beardiest people I've ever met, leading one to speculate that his head has been fitted upside down.
So Anthony had been on a weekend jaunt with some pals and it had involved some not inconsiderable quantities of alcohol. After finally emerging from the pit of his inebriation on Sunday morning, he decided a walk was in order, perhaps in the hope of outrunning the hangover which was clinging to him and weighing him down.
Now those of you in the UK may recall that last Sunday was a glorious spring day in every corner of our nation, and Anthony's location was no exception. As the sun beat down on his glowing pate, this small piece of tightly stretched skin gradually began to glow. At first, gentle iridescence. Then, a sheen of lubricating moisture appeared. Finally, as the minutes passed, it was possible to fry breakfast on it as long as Anthony remained relatively still.
Anthony did not realise this at the time, of course, since he was wallowing in headachey dehydration. However, as his humours returned to normal, the realisation dawned on him. Oh no. I'll have to go into the office like this.
As good fortune would have it, in the evening before returning to work the following day, Anthony needed to call me for a quick chat on an unrelated matter. Happily, he was kind enough to tell me all about his sore and peeling pate in its beetrooty state. That was jolly decent of him, because it gave me the time I needed to SMS a wide selection of other colleagues to ensure everyone wore their sunglasses to the office the following day. After the initial flash-mob desk attendance, many subsequent discussions and watercooler moments were conducted behind darkened lenses. Anthony glowed through indignance as well as sunburn, and thus our mission was accomplished.
I suppose it was a bit mean, but he took it well and let's face it, we've all been there. I have suffered the indignity of excessive, impossible to absorb, sun cream when trying to apply it in a daytime jaunt, and have been splashed in dramatic and artistic style by van drivers encountering muddy puddles. Who amongst us hasn't been caught in a heavens-opening torrent when wearing just our best T-shirt and nothing else (well, trousers, obviously, but you see what I mean...)
The London weather. It chews you up and spits you out. No wonder us Brits are obsessed by the subject. Anthony was just a statistic to be counted alongside its myriad victims. What would we do without it and its cruel sense of humour? Well, in Anthony's case, we'd spend more time enjoying the fresh air and less money on after-sun.