Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sweating it out

Organising any outdoor event in this country means having to deal with the weather. It's a cruel, unforgiving mistress, the Great British Weather. It builds your hopes up, makes you think anything is possible, flirts with you and then leads you on. But then, almost on a whim, it leaves you crushed and broken, manning a lemonade stand at a windswept summer fete in Kidderminster while a torrential downpour of Biblical proportions lays waste to everything around you.

In no other country are weather forecasters afforded the same treatment by the general public; a mixture of disdain and blind faith. We're not sure we should be taking any notice of their forecasts, but in our millions we tune in regardless.

I've been paying quite a bit of attention to weather forecasts recently. Given the whole Three Peaks thing that I'm doing next week, I'd quite like to understand where I stand. Or, perhaps more accurately, where I collapse in a sodden heap.

Up until yesterday, I was holding out for warm and dry. Warm and dry would be good. Warm and dry would be preferable. Well, preferable to cold and wet, anyway. Warm and dry was what I wanted, up until yesterday. Up until yesterday.

Yesterday I went out for a few hours, planning on walking about seven miles. It was warm and dry. In fact it was quite hot and dry.

"This is quite nice," I said to myself as I set out, walking through a leafy forest. I was alone, the sunlight forcing its way through the leaves. So far so good. Then I left the wood.

Christ on a bike and Batman. It was like walking through a blast furnace. I was in open country, the breeze had died down, the sun was beating down. Mainly on me, or so it felt. All I could hear was my own breathing. What do they say about mad dogs and Englishmen?

A quick respite came when I found the shade of an oak tree and sat for a while. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it? But I was whimpering gently as I necked a bottle of water in one go. Then back out from under the shade and the giant hairdryer was switched back on.

The last portion of the walk was about two miles along a canal towpath. The air was like warm treacle and I longed for bridges and tunnels to give me some shelter. I noticed with some alarm that my left hand had swollen up. That's not good, is it?

Eventually the finish line came. I limped to my car, wondering what a black car parked for three hours in direct sunlight would be like. I found out.

If it's like this next week we're going to struggle. Put it this way - while I'm not exactly praying for rain, I'm no longer worrying about it either.

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