No, this is not an early bird Christmas card, despite the fact that since August shops on the High Street have been steadily stocking up their ‘Christmas corners’ to the extent that red and green are already the predominant colours in their merchandising displays.
No, I’m talking about the change in seasons and the effect it has on us. The southern half of the UK where I live has enjoyed a balmy and at times sultry Indian summer, but it would appear that even for us weaker ones ‘darn sarf’ autumn is now here and it’s time to bite the bullet, and in my case, dig out the socks that I had persuaded myself I would never actually need to wear again.
On reflection, and staying with the clothing theme, I tend to resist the early, tempting, but not always reliable hints of a change in the seasons. As winter gives way to spring I belong firmly in the ‘ne’er cast a clout til May is out’ camp, refusing to discard my three layers of clothing until I am sure that I won’t be sent scurrying back into them, tail downcast, as the thermometer drops. And at the other end of the year, I resist getting out the down coat until there is simply no other option available to ensure I can still feel my limbs when I go out.
If you live in Britain, whether you like it or not, you have to be prepared to spend a certain amount of the time that you interact with your friends, family and colleagues discussing both the weather and the change of seasons. Indeed, I wonder whether the current challenging citizenship test includes a question on this. If not, then I fear for the future of our society as we know it. (Rest assured, dear reader, that this grandchild of immigrants is taking a touch of the proverbial mick.)
Whether you classify yourself as a ‘radiator’ or a ‘fridge’, in terms of your tolerance of heat and cold, seasonal change or upsets can have much more profound effects. I had a friend with Raynaud’s Syndrome, an unpleasant condition which causes the arteries to narrow in cold conditions, resulting in numbness in the fingers and toes, followed by tingling and throbbing once the hands and feet are able to warm up. She used to dread the onset of winter, knowing there would be months of discomfort.
My second child was born at the end of September, which that particular year was another hot, sultry month. I was much larger second time round, and have never felt so uncomfortable as I did in those last few weeks, waddling around in the heat, cursing the lingering summer and wishing it a speedy exit.
The accounts from immigrants from the West Indies to the UK in the 1950s all tell of the culture shock they experienced on arrival, not to mention the overt racism. But the reports also told of their discomfort at leaving a consistently warm tropical climate with very little seasonal change for an environment characterised by significant differences in temperature, rainfall and lengths of day and night. Many of them arrived with only lightweight clothing – hardly surprising when they had never experienced temperatures much lower than 18 degrees Celsius – and at first could not afford to buy anything warmer.
The new arrivals from the Indian sub-continent in the 1970s had to make similar adjustments. I do not know whether any research was carried out on this matter, but I do know how I feel once the days start to shorten and the temperature drops. It is as if I’m drawing in my horns, and starting to brace myself for the inevitable discomfort. Here we go…