Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Melting ...

I’m trying really hard not to melt. In the process, my brain is perspiring.

Poor little Dee-Oh'-Gee (our eight-year old puppy) is wilting.

And forget my chocolate stash – the hideout cupboard is a raging river!

We are experiencing one of our rare heat wave days here in the UK. For several days now.

It’s been 32C (90F). Very few houses in the UK are set up with air-conditioning. When my friends here find out I lived in the Southeast and Southwest for years, they assume that my skin is a fire retardant. They love the heat, and ardently seek it out when they go on holiday. What they do not realise, though, is that their two-week fun-in-the-sun becomes unbearable for those who have to live in it day in and day out.

Air-conditioning is the magic word, and for most Americans we take it for granted – until we live in places where it is not a priority.

Two items do not exist in abundance on this green isle: ice cubes and air conditioning. My brother, the AC/heating engineer, asked me recently why we don't have it in these Isles. Well, the reason I'm given when I ask that Q is that it's never hot enough long enough to justify the cost it takes to produce the energy needed. The ocean currents are another reason given for the perpetual coolness. We see so few sunny hot days that when one appears, the consensus is to embrace the heat and tough it out.
Discard the fleece and rev up the soft top!

Whatever one's belief or scientific analysis, the effects of global warming are certainly being felt here. Most do not expect a 'heat wave' in England until sometime in mid-July. They certainly don't expect to drip with sweat over their strawberries at Wimbledon. Sweat is for players, not observers.

The 'extreme' heat began showing up earlier in the summer of 2003, when thousands of people died of heat stroke in France. At least the French owned up to this tragedy. Tony Blair's government did not acknowledge the problem in the UK, and heat-related deaths went unreported. The NHS was taking other hits that year. In those days, I went to five stores before I could get my hands on a pedestal fan. There were two left. We kept one upstairs, so sleep would not be a fitful task. As luck would have it, my husband froze. He loves the heat, and sleeps wrapped up like a cocoon in the duvet. We ended up giving the other one to my step-daughter, who had just given birth to our first grandchild. She was worried about the 'thrush' the baby could not seem to get rid of.

'Honey, that's not thrush, that's heat rash.' A new phenomenon for these parts.

In the summer of 2004, the heat wave came earlier and stayed longer (six weeks, by my count). As soon as I saw them in the stores, I found the most wonderful remote-controlled, oscillating tower fan. If angel's wings could cool you off, it would feel like one of these!

In 2005 I added a midget tower fan to the dining room, and the trio completed the flow of cooling breezes throughout the house. But the cooling trio does not quite do the trick when it gets to 30C and above. If the temp is 86F outside, then inside it feels at least 10 to 15 degrees hotter. The air does not stir.

Last year we went to Bluewater (the largest shopping mall in Europe) to cool off. It was a good theory, except for a few glitches:
-- It was our anniversary, so we had lunch at TGIFriday's. As we sat at our table by the atrium-style window, we noticed the stifling heat. Our server apologised and said that the AC had given out. It had worked, but wasn't strong enough to endure the extreme heat. The ice machine also could not cope. They had to bring a generator in, as an aid only for the kitchen staff. So we toughed it out with the other diners, knowing that ...
-- ... at the cinema we would enjoy a couple of hours of respite. When we got to the movies and went to concessions, their ice machine was on the fritz. And they had run out of soft drinks.
-- Most of the AC units in the mall were not efficient enough to withstand the prolonged heat spell.

My husband works in a huge office complex known for its architecturally brilliant atrium. This week of heat, a lethargic work force has meant projects are now further behind. One of John's work mates just bought an air-conditioning unit from B&Q. He confessed that ‘it worked really well!’.

When John and his work colleagues were seconded to a project in Texas, three of the blokes immediately went out and hired soft tops. Well, that first summer became notorious for 100 consecutive days with temperatures over 100F. The guys with the soft tops were so disappointed! It was way too hot to drive with the soft tops down and breathe at the same time. They also could not enjoy the swimming pools at their posh corporate digs, because the water was hot enough for a cup of tea.

I'm trying to look on the sunny side. As I lay in bed the other night, unable to feel a cool breeze, and trying to keep Dee-Oh'-Gee from stroking out, I tried to think of all the happy times when I was a kid in the good old days, before AC was a standard feature for me or cars. However did we survive the heat back in the '50's and '60's?

I grew up in Colorado. We did not need AC. Just open the windows and let the fresh mountain air blow through the house. Heavenly! And shade or a willow tree really worked. But then we would have to drive down to West Texas for our summer holiday extravaganza with the grandparents. Their house would have a ceiling fan in the living room. In the bedrooms there was usually a pedestal fan.

Heat did not seem to be extreme enough to deter my brothers and cousins from chinaberry fights, or from catching and training horny toads. If it were too hot, we would find some shade and set up a Kool-Aid stand. We had lots of ice. My uncles would appear with watermelons, and later we might help make homemade ice cream.

Bedtime was a mystery, though. We cousins would sleep on one of Grandma's big beds and moan about the heat. Couldn't sleep. Mother or one of the aunts would come in and reassure us that we could sleep at the foot of the bed. It's always cooler at the foot of the bed.
Why is this?

One summer, when refrigerated window units were becoming the new trend, we drove up to my other Gram’s house just in time to catch her fixing the broken unit. Just as we were about to get her attention, the fan belt slipped and she lost her index finger at the first knuckle. We were just in time to take her to A&E. She gave up a lot to keep us cool.

When I was 12, we left the balmy mountain air of Long's Peak in Colorado for the poppy laden deserts of southern Afghanistan. It could get up to an arid 120F in the shade. But we had the Corps of Engineers, generators, and adobe dwellings on our side. Afghan Kuchis (nomads) are hardy creatures -- they wear black, and have AC genes in their DNA. They also take after their camels. Amazing.

Perhaps English Heritage is in a conspiracy to include AC and a steady supply of ice to their mission of suppression. If that's the case, then I'm feeling kind of rebellious.

Iced tea, anyone?

Monday, 5 June 2006

Pentecost Sunday

Some reflections …

50 days after Jesus walked out of that tomb!

The seventh Sunday after Easter – God really likes the number ‘7’.

In the Old Testament, a festival thanking God for the early Spring harvest (Shavout).

50 days after the beginning of Passover.

God’s Spirit is sent forth.

The visiting vicar yesterday, in a rather impersonal sermon, referred to Pentecost as ‘the Big Bang of Christianity’. He had just asked the kids in the choir what Pentecost Sunday reminded them of, and one of them suggested the Big Bang. He thought that was great. I’m still trying to come to terms with that analogy and his wholehearted endorsement. (I think too much!)

I understand that women and children were excluded from calculations by Jewish scribes and writers, so were there more than 3,000 present on the first day of Pentecost?

One of my friends leant over to me during the sermon and asked if women were also baptised on Pentecost. What a sad thought, to assume we women might have been excluded. But I don’t think so. I know that, unlike the Jewish male customs of the day, Jesus engaged in vital friendships with women – offered them his healing touch, approached and conversed with women publicly, and had no qualms with regards to teaching them in the same company with men (presumably outside of the Temple). So when he gave the Great Commission, he charged his disciples to:

'…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…’
(Matthew 28.19-ff)
‘…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved…’ (Mark 16.15-16)

I have to believe that from Jesus’ non-traditional examples and unique perspective women (and children!) are indeed included and welcomed by his invitation of grace and love.

In early Spring, everything is fresh. New life begins – little lambs and graceful colts appear on the fields. A varied palette of green shimmers as the sunlight dapples through the new leaves on the trees. Flowers are blooming, rich in colour and permeating the air with a blend of sweet fragrances.

Those of us affected by the passion of Christ are moved into effective service to live out his examples amongst those around us. In today’s world of war, corruption, religious and racial hatred, disease, poverty – all ills present during Jesus’ lifetime as a man walking with us – Pentecost can signal to us a call for hope and refreshing renewal.

The story of Pentecost as told in Acts 2 is one of amazing mystery. It’s okay if I don’t have to solve the mystery right now. But if I ever have a moment of wonder about the workings of God in my life, or consider the thoughts, words, and gifts he blesses me with, then I hope I can praise him with enough abandon to show him how much I love him.

Whenever I feel a fresh Spring breeze, I feel God’s presence close by. We attended a strawberry tea this weekend to help a sweet friend celebrate her 90 graceful but vibrant years of life. Over the many years she has cultivated the most beautiful cottage garden – gathering, planting, and treasuring special cuttings shared amongst friends and neighbours. To sit in its midst, surrounded by all the fragrant flowers and rich colours, enjoying our cream tea with this special lady and friends was a taste of Heaven! Just to worship in a refreshing breeze of peace and calm he sends is enough to know he cares and exists.

The nature of God's Holy Spirit is all encompassing, reaching out to those of us who will follow and connecting us to those who seek, or have yet to.

My walk on this journey is not a lonely one, but is supported and guided by the gifting and encouragement of the Holy Spirit.

Locations of visitors to this page