Changes

“Going to be a hot one!”, declared Grant, contemplating the mist obscuring all but a few trees in the foreground of our customary vista.

I don’t like hot weather, but this wasn’t always so.Following my banishment to a “safer” British boarding school, (run by Sisters of Charity), I shivered miserably under 6 layers of blankets plus an eiderdown. The dormitory to which I was assigned occupied the unheated attic of an old converted manor house. The single-pane windows did not close tightly and they rattled in the howling wind which constantly battered the coast which we overlooked.

Often, during that coldest winter in dozens of years, we would rise in the morning to frozen water pipes, our sink being directly beneath the drafty window.

The common-room and dining rooms were less frigid, but still I could not get warm. At the school-house which was a bus ride away, in the town of Bideford, (North Devon), heat was provided by the means of hot water pipes. My feet sought them out but suffered for it.

I didn’t think you would want a picture of my toe

Chilblains were very common in the England of my childhood. They developed as a result of frequent exposure to cold, wet weather, followed by “too fast a return to a warm environment”. The small blood vessels constrict to keep warm blood from the skin but when the foot (in my case) is placed on a hot pipe, those vessels re-expand more quickly than the larger vessels are able to.

That boring and basic explanation omits the effect on the sufferer, which, after so many years, I still remember as being intensely inconvenient. My toes swelled so badly as to make wearing shoes impossible. I had to be allowed to wear my boots all day, as I should otherwise have been bare-footed. The major discomfort came from the fact that chilblains itch, excessively and constantly. The only cure, really, is warm weather. And keeping your feet off the hot pipes. At least I did not have the wretched things on my legs and hands as some did.

Truth to tell, it was sheer physical discomfort that made me agree so readily to accept the offer of moving into the care of my aunt and uncle in America, which seemed so civilized. Not that I can recall being given an option. My enthusiasm for the move probably went a long way to soothing my mother’s conscience. My father would not have suffered from such qualms.

It seems to me, though it was very long ago, that New York in the 1960’s sustained some significantly cold winters. I remember temperatures being in the single digits as well as not infrequent snowfall. I still wasn’t a fan of being cold, but it made all the difference having a warm home to go to and a warm bed to sleep in. As for snow, despite the many problems it caused in travelling to work and in the uproar from delayed passengers once I got there (like the weather was an airline conspiracy), I was always enchanted by it.

Later, when I visited the retired aunt and uncle in Maine, I was positively captivated by it. “Captivated” might have been the operative word if I had ever been trapped there by a particularly bad blizzard, but I never was. Bangor International Airport was highly efficient at clearing it’s runways.

Waiting for the bus in a frigid parking lot, and waiting at the end of frozen jet bridges for aeroplanes to arrive did rather make me still slightly disfavour Winter, but I had an escape…

My father having, to my mother’s alarm, decided to abandon further employ by UNESCO (from what I gather he pretty much said “that’s it, I’m off”, and made tracks for the airport – literally), my parents returned to resume responsibility for the small apartment complex they had created in Barbados.

Many times I escaped the worst of the winter storms by popping down to the islands for a few days. I was a sun-worshipper (as in my post “A Chicken Story”), at that stage of life where you think a great sun tan will increase your chances of landing the man of your dreams! As you may have guessed, it did not.

Increasingly, though, summer in New York was starting to bother me. My second day on the job at JFK was 26th June, 1969. All my life I have always arrived early, no matter what the occasion. So I set out, as usual, wearing the second-hand uniform that had been provided; tight navy skirt and fitted white blouse, and, being the naive little twit that I was, I think I was even wearing my cap.

And promptly got stuck in a major traffic jam on the Long Island Expressway. Young chaps who were more skillful with their traffic maneuvers kept passing me by, whistling, or calling “is this any way to run an airline?” It was positively the last time I wore my hat while driving to work.

Not only was I late, which, for a trainee, later on would become grounds for instant dismissal, but I was dripping wet and a nervous wreck. Air-conditioned cars were a thing of the future except for the wealthy and famous. It’s was a great way to start work, hot, disheveled and stressed. That’s when I started to loathe hot weather.

Even in Puget Sound the weather gets very hot in the summer and out there, as it tends not to last long, most people don’t air-condition their homes. For the most part, there, the days are less humid. But for a very long time now, I have been glad when June, July and August are over.

Coming back to New York, summer was something I did not look forward to, and I began anticipating the arrival of undesired warm weather as soon as March was over. But so many things have turned out different to expectations. Whether it’s climate change or Carolyn change, I cannot say.

Spring took forever to arrive. Whereas in Seattle it always seemed that the departure of Winter (such as it was) launched us straight into Summer and light clothing, back here in NY, I was still in long sleeves at the end of May. And loving it!

Summer has now arrived and I do have to avoid being in the sun for extended periods, but, bliss, – I have central air conditioning, and what a difference it makes!

Maybe I am no longer hating Summer. For one thing, of course, I am no longer surrounded by heat-absorbing concrete and pollution of all kinds. The garden that is attached to my new house is not the killer I owned in Washington. Out there, often dry periods extended for 10 weeks. For hours each day I would drag hoses around, cavorting about on the uneven, steep hill that was my “garden”. If the neighbors ever saw me they must have thought I was a serious drinker.

My New York garden is all on one level and rut-free which makes it more or less manageable. It doesn’t hurt that we get rain showers. How I love those wonderful cumulonimbus and what they sometimes bring. I actually missed the sound of thunder in Washington. I adore a good storm and I discovered that Cambridge is a place of double-rainbows. Only once before had I ever seen one. Here they happened two days in a row.

Also, I’ve enjoyed the delight of seeing what comes up in the garden, the contents of which was a mystery, as I arrived in October. Technically, it’s still a mystery, as I can barely name two plants and those would be guesses. But does that matter? I think not.

2 thoughts on “Changes

  1. What a joy it must be to have an already established garden and one that is much easier to care for.

    I wish I could enjoy thunder, but down here where I am, it usually means a very bad storm is coming. We have had more than our share of destructive winds and tornadoes this year.

    Like

  2. Yes, generally speaking thunderstorms are bad news. My friends who were pilots tried hard to avoid them. I used to love flying up way above the clouds in the tropics and watch the tremendous power of Nature beneath. It was better than fireworks. Usually just monsoons there, but places like Bangladesh seem prone to cyclones and they suffer terrible flooding etc.

    Liked by 1 person

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