Friday, May 27, 2005

Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen....

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my first year is South Carolina, it’s this:

Sun: Bad. Air-conditioning: Good.

Now many of you, especially those of you living in England will think I’m crazy for saying that. When you live in a country where you’re lucky to see the sun one day out of five, anywhere where the sun shines brightly seems like a paradise. However, when you where born in a cold country and move to a hot one, it’s one hell of an adjustment.

“Lies!” I hear you cry. Of course! You’ve been to Spain, Greece, France, all those countries…it’s hot there and you managed it. It’s easy, slap on the sun block, it’s easy street from then on, right?


You forget you spend most of your actual days on holiday in bed. Who can get up before noon when you’ve been up all night knocking back the sangria? If you are up during the day, you’re in the bar, in the restaurant, generally having a relaxing time.

When you actually live somewhere hot, it’s an entirely different story.

The funniest part of ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ is that it’s true. You go anywhere that has a hot climate, and I guarantee if you go for a walk between 11am and 2pm, you won’t see any locals on the street…they’re not that stupid.

To the locals in hot countries, the English are a sort of entertainment. They think we’re crazy. They take bets on which of us is going to pass out first.

Let me tell you a story.

On my first visit to the US, my wife and I decided to do a little yard work. I was pushing the mower, she was weeding the flowerbed. 30 minutes later, she gets up, and heads into the house.

‘Lazy!’ I think. She looks over her shoulder at me like I knew to follow her.
“You’d better come in, it’s getting hot out there.” She says.
“I’ll be in in a minute.” I reply.

So I carry on, not wearing a hat to keep the sun off my head, not wearing any sun block. All the while laughing at the American people. Wusses the lot of them! Can’t take a little bit of heat. We English are made of stronger stuff. Americans, ha! Afraid of a little bit of sun!

2 hours later I’m lying in the bath tub, fully clothed, under a cold shower, while gasping for breath. My head looks like it’s been dropped in a deep fat fryer, and even my eyelashes hurt. The wife (well at that time she was just my friend) stands over me.

“Told you.” She says.

It didn’t stop at sunburn, I had full blown heat-stroke. Dizziness, nausea and, for good measure, throwing up. It went on for days.

It’s still a story in my new family. ‘When Paulius worked outside at noon for 3 hours.” No one actually believes me that I didn’t know that it was a bad idea, in fact, very few English people do.

So why is this?

The answer is simple. In England, we’ve never had to deal with the heat. Rain, we can handle by the shed load. Snow? Easy! Sun? No frigging way!

In England we might as well call the sun ‘The Scareball’. We see the sun so little, that small children run in fear from it

“Mummy, mummy! What’s that big round thing in the sky?! What’s this strange tingling feeling I can feel on my face?”
“It’s called warmth, dear! Run for your life!”

I remember shortly after moving to South Carolina, I had a telephone conversation with my parents. They informed me that they were in the middle of a heat wave back in ‘ole Blighty. The temperature had risen to a scorching 74 degrees Fahrenheit. I particularly remember this telephone conversation because it had topped 100 degrees that day, and I answered the phone naked, lying on the tile bathroom floor while gasping for breath. When I told my in-laws about England’s heat wave, they laughed themselves silly. Over here, 74 degrees is downright chilly.

You see, in England, ‘hot’ means you get to take off your coat and maybe your sweatshirt. In South Carolina, ‘hot’ means the air is impossible to breathe, the soles of your shoes melt to the sidewalk, and you lose half your bodyweight to sweat every half hour.

For the first few months when I came to live here, I honestly thought I would die. It was 97 degrees, zero breeze and 140% humidity, which I didn’t even think was possible.

I remember standing outside my house, wearing a pair of shorts and factor 10,000 sun block, talking to my brother-in-law (Who was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt).

“Is England a warm country?”
“HA!” I reply.
“Yeah, it can get kinda warm over here.”
Get warm? GET warm? What in the blue hell is he talking about?
I whimper.
“It gets a bit uncomfortable, if you think this is hot, wait for a few months until we’re in the dead of summer.”

Let’s just say ‘dead’ of summer was right. By midsummer, the heat was unbearable. Let me just say it gave me an insight into how vampires must feel. I honestly began to fear the sun.

The absolute worst is when there’s a short rain shower. The first time that happened, I was happy. A nice light shower to cool you down and freshen the air.

What actually happened was the rain evaporated almost before it hit the sidewalk. The world around me suddenly turned into a 120 degree sauna of heat shimmer death, which had me running to the car and wrapping my mouth around the air vents with the Air conditioner running full blast.

If you are thinking of moving to a hot country, let me give you a little advice:

1) Do not venture outside between 11am and 2pm. Forget bravado and ‘A little heat won’t bother me’. It’s hard to act macho when you’re crying in the bathtub.
2) Do not lean on cars, unless you like the smell of freshly fried ass.
3) Do not sit in the freezer either, this results in funny looks…this is from personal experience.
4) Do not, under any circumstances, sunbathe. I fell asleep. My shadow is still burned onto my front lawn.
5) The fish do not appreciate it when to plunge your head into their tank. Don’t do it.
6) Brace yourself when opening the front door. With all your windows covered and the air conditioning on, you are lulled into believing that it is cool outside. It isn’t. Falling on your ass also gets you laughed at.
7) However hot it is outside, its nothing compared to the interior of your car. Check your seatbelt before you put it on. Nothing is more fun than a 3 inch wide strip of burning death across your shoulder…especially when the clip is to hot to release. Ditto steering wheel, that flesh takes a while to grow back.

Let’s just say that now I’ve learned my lesson.

Every winter, however, I get my revenge.


SL said...

Being of fair skin and auburn (yes, ginger, ok?!) hair, I fear the sun when it tops 70.

Bravo on adapting. Death would be preferable to myself.

serendipity said...

God I don't think i'd cope. I was mardy as hell when I went to Greece and it hit 100 degrees! I have aspirations of moving to the US but I think perhaps a cooler state would be better for where the heat doesn't turn me into the kind of woman who appears to have 24/7 PMT lol

Amusingly written again though, you give me a right laugh when I read your examples of what not to do