I am sitting here at my desk, in my apricot coloured office, with Radio 4 burbling gently behind me and the rain drumming its own beat outside. Oh rain, I'm so pleased to see you! For a spiritual bear like me (some people are spiritual geckos, some are spiritual bears), yesterdays 30+ degree heat was just...like some awful 3rd rate sci-fi hellscape. With chirpy neighbours who are more gecko than bear.
"Oh yes mate. A real treat. I'm going to mow the lawn and chainsaw a tree. See ya mate."
"Good luck mate, I'll be here pointlessly hammering nails into bits of wood."
"Good on ya mate."*
There is a strict routine to days like that: in the morning, the blinds and windows at the back of the house are flown open to allow as much (relatively) fresh and cool air in as possible. By midday, those are resolutely closed and the ones at the front of the house have been opened instead.
The cats find new hiding places to escape the heat. The Great Boo is under the trailing spider plant, enjoying the cool green shade of the beast. Tiny Wee Mabel seeks out shrubs to sleep away her day underneath, coming in at night to lie on the beds, shedding dried earth and dead insects from her fur.
I look in the fridge like a helpless infant turning to its mother for food. Why have the contents not converted themselves into nutritious salads and refreshing iced teas while the door has been closed? Does this mean I have to do it? N is no help on these days as he will happily eat cereal twice a day when it's hot, like an overgrown student. Which I suppose he is now.
Any allotment visiting takes place strictly before 8am where a short burst of watering, fretting over mysterious holes in the sunflower leaves, weeding and harvesting of an onion or two, plus a quick pick of sweet peas may take place. I can hear the rattle of the heavy chain and lock that keeps the gates closed, repeatedly clanging as people race against the temperature clock.
"Sorry! Think we're all up here, aren't we?"
"Can't stop, I've got 5 minutes to water everything while the kids eat breakfast!"
"Don't shut the gate!"
The only other time it's this busy is on a Sunday morning where we can linger over Thermos's of coffee and commiserate over bindweed. There is not the time at 7.30 on a Friday: we rush in, sending dog walkers - on the same early morning mission - scattering in surprise. It's like the rush for an IKEA sale, without the tea lights and meatballs.
At some point, I manage 10 minutes of yoga and realise that, along with all the usual places, my eyebrows are sweating. Eyebrows! I didn't even know they could do that! So I ditch out of the 4th downward dog in favour for practising shavasana - corpse pose. Apologies to the plucky tiny Texan teaching us all via YouTube but my inner bear wants shavasana, preferably on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor, a la the Great Boo.
Another mournful gaze into the fridge fails to automatically muster up a peach, mint, bulgar wheat and feta salad with pomegranate molasses dressing, or even the ingredients for one, so I eat cheese on crackerbread and then retire for a nap on the sofa, the coolest spot in the house, waking an hour later with only the vaguest of notions where I am.
Coolest apart from the hallway but I've not yet been forced to camp in there. Give me time.
I've recklessly promised a friend I will go along to her preview show, so I pack sandwiches (the last time I went to any kind of exhibition preview, the promised 'dry snacks'** turned out to be packets of Walkers crisps. I am not falling for that trick again), bottles of water and wet flannels into a bag packed with ice blocks. I pack the friend foolish enough to say she'd come along. And we head out for a 50 minute journey down the M5 with broken air conditioning.
As the mini Magnums are wilting on their slushy bed of ice, people are eschewing sticky backed hugs in favour of air kisses that land wide of their marks. Carefully designed 'Become a Patron' flyers are crumpled with use as fans and sticky from use as cocktail coasters. Faces are flushed and shirts are damp but the preview is a success, which is all that matters.
I stay up talking with N, who'd been to the Gardeners World show for the day (the day! I'd have lasted an hour and probably tried to push Monty Don into a pond in my heat-induced fury), till 1am, neither of us able to sleep in heat that lies like a blanket. We drink cold white wine, eat Pringles, from our seats on the floor, the coolest part of the house. Tiny Wee Mabel comes in and announces, loudly, that she is going upstairs to sleep and scatter debris on a duvet after her long day of sleeping. Great Boo sits silently by his bowl, hoping that mute appeal will win him a second helping of supper biscuits.
At last, although sleeping downstairs on the floor comes in for serious consideration, I remember that TWM brought a mouse in last week, and I don't much want to wake up next to a rodent corpse, I haul my heat-heavy carcass off to bed. One day, I promise myself, one day I will crack this heat thing and I will learn to love the weighty days of summer. One day I will have the right clothes, the right body, the right attitude, the right eyebrows that don't sweat.
But right now, there's an ice block chilling my bed and calling my name.
**seriously. The preview invite said "one drink and dry snacks will be available". I have never felt more invited