Monday, 31 October 2011

Ramblings: Country Living

You know how people describe themselves as outdoorsy? Well, I’m more indoorsy. Inside a house is safer, more private and it has beds to lie in and chairs to sit on, running water and central heating. Much more civilised. I’m of an age where I like a nice settee now. Actually, I’ve always liked a nice settee. I’m with Winston Churchill in that I also believe that the secret of life is “conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down."
I grew up in a very urban area of what was a large town but is now a small city. I lived on a small terraced street with Double Decker buses trundling right past my bedroom window throughout the day and evening. You could walk to the town centre in 10 minutes, there was a shop two doors away which sold sweets and if you wanted fresh air there was a park down the road to cover all that business.
Parks are great. You can pretend you’re in the countryside without leaving the safety of the city. Taking in a nice leisurely stroll is so much more reassuring and relaxing when you have mobile phone reception and a 24 hour Spa shop to buy cigarettes from within staggering distance.  Personally, I don’t feel at all safe without a back up lighter, a minimum of 20 cigarettes and at least two bars on my phone. I also need regular coffee. There’s never a Starbucks outside of towns.
I’m petrified of dead animals. Rotting fox corpses by the roadside horrify me and I retch a little when I see a battered pheasant. The countryside is a place of dead animals. Death lurks around every corner and decomposition is left to take place without the intervention of a friendly council bin man to scoop up the cadaver and dispose of it neatly. I was once strolling through some remote woods with my parents and smelt the unmistakable tang of rotting flesh in the air. I stifled my gagging and walked on with a mounting sense of dread expecting to see a murder victim or two. It was a rotting sheep pulsating with maggots. Seeing that left me feeling quite traumatised. You don’t get that in the suburbs. The worst thing you’ll see in the city is a gunshot victim or a collapsed pensioner and at least the police are usually nearby.
Nature is pretty brutal too. The countryside is awash with violence whether its foxes ripping apart rabbits by the throat or an owl swooping down and disembowelling a mouse, it’s a nasty environment. Not to mention the personal danger. There’s ravines, badly made footpaths, rickety stiles and concealed mine shafts. It’s all so slippery too. I watched enough “999” with Michael Burke in the 90s to know that a rural amble usually results in loss of limbs at the very least.
The countryside is very pretty looking, although it does have a lot of dirt and soil and it over relies on the colour green. It could be tidier and better organised (and would be if I had the time). The problem for me is that it’s all a bit samey. You walk up a hill and you see hill. You get to the other side of a hill and see the other side of a hill. You walk back down again, looking at a hill. It goes on a bit. I prefer buildings with interesting architecture, throngs of weird people to gawp at and be entertained by and an ever changing vista of life; much more stimulating.
You can’t dress nicely in the countryside. Who wants to wear clunky boots, fleeces or heavy cords? They’re awful things and there’s never a reason I’d go somewhere where you need to wear sensible shoes or waterproof items. I was once on a country walk with my parents one Boxing Day and my non-sensible shoe became lodged in a muddy rut in an icy field. As I pulled my foot out of the stinking dirt the sole of my shoe was left behind. My mother insisted we couldn’t turn back as we were over halfway. She lied and my lacerated blue foot took a little while to heal.
It gets so dark there too. I was stunned aged 27 at how dark it gets in the deep inner countryside. I don’t think I’d ever stayed anywhere as remote as the cottage I stayed at in rural France. It was horrifyingly claustrophobic at night. It was an unpleasant revelation to realise darkness was so intense. I thought that kind of darkness just existed in horror films. Have you noticed that lots of horror films are set in remote country farm houses? I can see why. There’s a good reason.
Finally, there are all those animals. I do like animals but prefer them either on TV or behind bars in a zoo or through the glass of a car window in a safari park. Walking through a field of cows terrifies me and all those news reports of couples being trampled to death by crazed bovine herds echo through my head and set my pulse racing. My best friend and I once took her slightly naughty dog for a walk and wandered into a field of bullocks who decided that a barking dog was a good reason to run at us. We were soon muttering something sounding like “bullocks” as we panted along breathless and red faced towards the nearest stile. We ran pretty fast for two heavy smokers with the fitness level of elderly sloths after a cardiac operation. I was screeching all the way, shouting “If they get too close we can jump in the river!” Thankfully we escaped, dry.
If you’d like to invite me out on a stroll I’d love to come, as long as it’s less than 3 miles in total, it’s not raining, I can bring a Kendall Mint Cake, a thermos, 40 cigarettes, a pack-a-mac, some emergency flares, an umbrella, a blanket, biscuits, a first aid kit, a stun gun and a novel. Oh, and will you carry my bag? It’ll be quite heavy.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Poems: I'm Nobody! Who are you?

Emily Dickinson lived in almost total isolation in Massachusetts during the 1800s, rarely leaving her room at all for long stretches. She was viewed locally as an eccentric and lived her life through correspondence and writing. I love this poem and think it should be compulsory reading for anyone contemplating seeking fame. Being nobody is sometimes a wonderful thing.   

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

By Emily Dickinson

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog – 
To tell one's name – the livelong June – 
To an admiring Bog!

Ramblings: Perchance to Dream

I love to sleep. I’m just not always very good at it. I keep trying though.
As a child I was plagued by nightmares and would sit, bolt upright in bed and scream, like a heroine in a Victorian horror story, before laying back down and going back to sleep. Unfortunately this habit has persisted into adult life and although less frequent, I’ve scared a few sleeping partners over the years. One long term partner had a pull cord light switch over the bed and I managed to snap it twice during attacks of the night terrors. I’ve knocked over lamps, jumped out of bed in a start and shaken people awake. Annoyingly for them, I then instantly fell back to sleep. They usually didn’t.
I dream a lot still, one of the more annoying side effects of the Serotonin Uptake Re-Inhibitor anti-depressants I take long term. I dream in Technicolor, my brain spewing out the surreal and the mundane and rearranging them into life like meandering stories. I get confused at times about what is a dream and what happened, they’re so vivid. It’s usually easy to work it out; if I was a teenage girl or a goat when the incident happened I can usually work out that it was a dream.
I very rarely struggle to get off to sleep. I wake up in the mornings and am wound up by a couple of coffees and a few cigarettes and like a clockwork toy I set off and go until my key winds down mid afternoon and I pass out. I then begin again and whizz off until I collapse into a coma at night. Insomnia for me is when I’m not asleep after 3 minutes.
I do struggle to stay asleep, waking frequently throughout the night and am often to be found standing at the back door having a sneaky cigarette at 3 or 4am. It’s a pain, especially when I get the odd week or two where I wake religiously on the hour every hour. I tend to wake early too, something which has got worse with ageing. In spite of stopping working shifts almost 3 years ago I still wake up for the early shift at 530am on a regular basis.
Being childless has many advantages. Yes, I’ll be in old people’s home which smells of urine one day, but I can have an afternoon sleep and no one bothers me. I got into the habit as a student nurse. The shift pattern was odd and the work was laborious and back breaking at times so I got used to snatching sleep when I could. Finishing at 9pm and then having to be back at work at 7am meant that the split shift sleep was a necessity to function.
The habit crept up on me. It started innocuously with me getting into an absurd routine. Whenever I finished an early shift I’d race home, lie on the settee and put the TV on. The minute the quiz show Countdown came on at 4pm I’d nod off and wake up the minute it finished. I never saw the program but it was a perfect sedative. I think it might be a show about anagrams. I’d then jump up, swig a quick coffee and set out with the dog for a walk. This meant that he also got into a routine. He’d sit by the side of the settee staring at me, knowing he was due a walk soon but hoping that one day I’d wake up before Countdown ended and he’d get an early walk. He never did. I always went to sleep with a dog staring at me and woke up with a dog staring at me. He was persistent. He hated me working nights and would sit outside the bedroom door all day, occasionally banging on the door with a shoe until I arose let rip like a crazed banshee and he’d skulk away.
The afternoon napping progressed and soon I was actually going to bed in the afternoon. It’s a blissful feeling to strip off, slide under the duvet and hide from the world for an hour. Yes, it grew to an hour. I’d get quite excited and jump into bed exclaiming to myself “I’m in bed!” Then it grew to two hours. I had to draw a line there. It was getting to a point where I’d get up in the morning and be thinking how soon I could feasibly be back in bed. Naturally, I haven’t stopped doing it even though I work regular hours now. I invariably go to bed every afternoon on my days off. It’s my body clock now.
I hated working nights and never really adjusted well to them . It’s pure cruelty to be so tired that you could pass out and be surrounded by sleeping people. It’s like being on a diet and having to watch a room full of people eat. Unlike other jobs, nursing also involves having to be quiet and sit in semi-darkness during a night shift. Quite an ordeal for the weary.
I once slept through my ex-partner breaking down the flat door when I was a teenager. I’d locked myself in and forgotten to take the key out of the door. I spent a 5 hour night flight asleep without moving once. A couple of pensioners complimented me on my ability to sleep and I nodded graciously in acceptance. I think they’d got a book going on whether I was dead or not.
My previous love of alcohol was often about sleep. I found that in large enough quantities alcohol could make me sleep through whatever crisis I’d invented in my head or whatever was going on around me. Unfortunately it was a flawed plan and led to deferred problems with the added burden of malnutrition, lowered moods and storming hangovers. It felt good to sleep constantly for a day or two though, during a good drinking bender. Thankfully, I got out of that habit. It was hideously dangerous and not a good way to spend your time off work.
Up to the 1960s they used sleep cures in psychiatry, inducing unconsciousness for a week or so with heavy sedation to cure depression or anxiety. Now isn’t that a tempting thought? Mind you, it didn’t work so well for Michael Jackson, did it? As a recognised treatment it fell out of favour well and truly in the 1970s when 26 patients died in a clinic in Australia due to over sedation. Maybe I’ll stick to a good book and a Horlicks.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Reviews: Autumn 2011

I posted some reviews of things I liked in the summer so thought I’d follow up with some of my views on stuff I’ve been seeing or reading recently that I hope you might like too.
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

There’s nothing quite like being made to read an author as a schoolchild to instil a deep hatred for that writer. Jane Austen is out for me forever after having to plough through “Mansfield Park” for A Level English; Thomas Hardy makes me shudder but luckily “Great Expectations” made me actually take notice of Dickens and persist further. I couldn’t resist the charms of Miss Havisham. We were forced to read “The Heart of the Matter” when I was at school and to my young mind it was tedious and irrelevant and sadly I put Greene aside. It was only last year on reading “The End of the Affair” that I rediscovered his genius for depicting human frailty. I hadn’t ever seen either film version of “Brighton Rock” which was a bonus, so I had no preconceived notions when I read this recently. It’s a fantastic book and I’d recommend it to anyone. The seedy criminals of Brighton are used to illuminate human behaviour with Greene’s usual understated perception.
The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

I was captivated by “The Swimming Pool Library” in 1989 and loved the two follow ups but found the Booker Prize winner “The Line of Beauty” a bit of a chore. The latest book was absolutely compelling. I was awake late into the night reading this book. I loved the story line and the sweeping romp through history. Alan Hollinghurst is a rare thing in the literary world, a skilled writer who doesn’t neglect storyline to show off his talent for prose.
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Don’t be put off by the packaging and titles. Sittenfeld is fine writer of quality fiction who gets packaged by her publishers to make her books have a wide appeal and consequently they always look a bit trashy. This is huge tome of a book but well worth reading. It covers the story of a woman who marries a man who becomes president of the United States and is based on the life of Laura Bush. I have very little interest in American politics but the quality of the characterisation and the plot made me want to read more which is a testament in itself. My only criticism is that it could have been slightly shorter. There seems to be a trend for meaty volumes currently. Maybe people don’t feel they get value for money unless they get a book which wrenches their shoulder when carried. I’d recommend Sittenfeld’s other two novels (Prep and The Man of My Dreams) also.

I definitely wouldn’t say I enjoyed this film. I did love it and found it profoundly moving but it’s on the bleaker end of the spectrum. It’s good to feel disturbed by things, sometimes, I think. I think that good art should enrich understanding and not just be about entertaining. Not that the film doesn’t possess a certain humour. The two lead actors put in intense performances which made me gasp at times. I’m in awe of Olivia Coleman.
Midnight in Paris

I’ve never been a huge Woody Allen fan and went to see this with mild reservations. It was a charming film. Great concept, stunning shots of Paris and wryly witty and amusing all the way through. I loved the vision of Paris in the 20s and Woody Allen’s ear for dialogue is still acute.
We Need to Talk About Kevin

So often good books make bad films. Maybe bad filmmakers make good books into bad films. I love the book this is based on and recently re-read it, which deepened my respect for it as a work of genius. I was actually quite nervous that it would make a bad film and ruin the book for me but was reassured that the author had spoken out about how pleased she was with the film (she seems to have integrity) and equally bolstered by the choice of Tilda Swinton to play Eva. Although I preferred the book to the film, I found that the images used were actually affirming and didn’t jar with what was in my head. It’s a complex book and to make it cinematic is a hard task but one which I think succeeded largely. A few of the themes explored in the book were lost in the film and there was more ambiguity in parts and less in others but on the whole I’d thoroughly recommend seeing this as a well shot and intriguing film.
My appreciation this month goes to two touring productions which you may be able to catch as they’re both doing the circuit in the U.K.
End of the Rainbow

This tightly written play is a depiction of the last few months of Judy Garland’s life. Struggling with addiction, a gruelling schedule and a new fiancĂ©e who seems to want to work her into the ground, she starts to unravel. It starred an amazing actress called Tracie Bennett who captured the voice and mannerisms of Garland perfectly. It could have been crass but actually this play really worked and received a standing ovation. It’s a sad play but also a very funny play which I was left thinking about for a while after I saw it.
An Inspector Calls

This revival of the classic play by J.B. Priestley is a joy to watch and has a theme which has as much relevance today as when it was written in the 1940s. This revival of Stephen Daldry’s 1992 production is immensely powerful. I won’t talk about the set, for fear of spoiling your enjoyment of it if you see the play, except to say that it was stunning and deserved a round of applause of its own. Definitely worth seeing. There were about 5 rows of teenage schoolchildren in the audience in front of me and they were so captivated that they didn’t utter a sound all the way through. That is an accolade.

Ramblings: Fantabulosa

Ready for a lesson in language and etymology? Then I shall begin:
Have you ever ogled someone in “clobber” which was tight around the crotch showing off their “basket”? Maybe you called someone a “bitch” and had a “barney” today or saw a slightly “naff” man in “drag” as you left your “bijou” flat which you’d “zhoosed” up a bit before leaving? Maybe you used the “khazi”, hopefully whilst on your “todd” before “mincing” off.
Yes, we gaylords are everywhere and we’ve infiltrated your language; sneaky or what? These words all come from Polari, the ancient language of the covert and shifty homo. Polari is thought to have originated from Italian, French, Yiddish and London street slang and was originally used by circus people in the 1700s, spreading in time to the markets, fairs and theatres of London. Naturally there were a lot of gays hanging around the markets, fairs and theatres of London. In time it became the official secret language of the clandestine homosexual and was spoken quite commonly in 1950s London.
Until homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, gay men needed to be discrete and secretive or risk imprisonment or time in an asylum and polari provided a nice little code. Although there are only about 20 or so core words, most of which covered subject matters relating to hair styles, fashion, attractive men and having your end away, they covered most bases for the homo about town in 50s Soho. What else was there to talk about? The effeminate gay men of the coffee houses and illicit bars were able to converse freely, gossip about everyone and admire men at their leisure and no one understood a word. Genius.
Polari declined once homosexuality was legalised and fell into disuse but a few of the words remained and entered mainstream culture. Princess Anne once shouted “Naff off!” at a photographer so clearly it even has royal approval.
The very naughty Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick played two very camp characters for the BBC radio show “Round the Horne” in the mid 1960s. The boys, Julian and Sandy would speak almost entirely in polari and the dulcet screeches of obscenities which no one understood were broadcast into suburban homes all around Britain; pure subversive genius in my view.
I’m pretty fluent in it myself. It comes in handy from time to time and hours spent listening to Kenneth Williams have taught me the rudiments.
So, without further ado, I’ll uncross my lallies, runa  comb through my riah, rearrange the expression on my eke and troll off for a mince round to vada the bona omis. Fantabulosa.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Poems: Happiness

Raymond Carver was a fantastic short story and poetry writer who was prolific in the 60s, 70s and 80s in spite of chronic alcoholism. You may know him from the Robert Altman film, “Short Cuts” based on his book of short stories. He eventually stopped drinking and ten years later developed terminal lung cancer at the age of 50. These two poems describe his gratitude for the ten years extra years he got (he was on the point of death when he stopped drinking at 40) and are both inscribed on his grave stone. Sobering words indeed and very uplifting.
Happiness by Raymond Carver
No other word will do. For that's what it was.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. "Don't weep for me,"
he said to his friends. "I'm a lucky man.
I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don't forget it."

Late Fragment by Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Ramblings: Always Join the Minority

I've been fascinated by the artist Edward Burra since seeing his painting, "Winter" at an exhibition at the Quad gallery in Derby which i've shared at the bottom of the page.  

He was infamously grumpy and solitary and always shunned publicity. There's only one existing interview with him in existance. He only accepted a CBE in 1971 because he said he thought it would help him get served in bars, something he struggled with due to his dilapidated appearance. He didn't want fame and the trappings of recognition and celbrity were something which he rightly felt would interfere with what he wanted to do, which was paint pictures.

He was born into a wealthy family and was a sickly child, plagued by juvenile arthritis and ill health which left him a crippled invalid. He found joy in painting and viewed it as an addictive drug. He spent large portions of his life living in his family's mansion although did once tell his mother he was nipping into the garden and returned six months later, following a trip to Harlem to paint hookers, sailors and drunks.

Whilst his contemporaries in the 1920s were hard drinking, cocain snorting womanisers, he was a celibate ascetic. He was iknown for his acerbic put downs and quick wit. His motto was "Always join the minority." He stuck by this and at a time when his contemporaries were painting mostly abstarct work he was fascinated by depicting people, particualry the seedy section of society.

I love the picture at the top of the page, "The Snack Bar" from 1930. The faces fascinate me and speak volumes about the characters. There's a certain dark undercurrent to the picture, perfectly captured. I also love that Burra conquered life long disability to become such a great and prolific painter. Life needs observers to chronicle it for us and help us to view it differently.

Poems: Bluebird

“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.”
“Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.”
“Sex is kicking death in the ass while singing.”
I love this poem by Charles Bukowski, author of “Ham on Rye” and “Post Office”. I like that a hard drinking, troubled rock of masculinity can admit to this bubble of happiness which battles with his cynicism.

Bluebird by Charles Bukowski
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

Monday, 17 October 2011

Ramblings: Terribly Cowardly

I was lucky enough to see a brilliant performance of “Private Lives” by Noel Coward the other day at the fantastic Nottingham Playhouse. We’re lucky to have a regional theatre in the area that produces such top quality drama and I’ve been fortunate enough to see many outstanding and innovative productions there in the last 15 years. The play was beautifully staged and the acting was superb, keeping pace with a rapid and witty script. It was a very superior piece and well worth catching if you can get tickets, although it finishes in a week.
I love Noel’s wit and bon mots. Three of my favourite quotations are as follows:
"My philosophy is as simple as ever. I love smoking, drinking, moderate sexual intercourse on a life diminishing scale, reading and writing (not arithmetic)"
“It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”
"It's not that I'm homosexual constantly, it is just that I give them a helping hand from time to time."
I also found the following little gem the other day. It’s an extract from his diaries from May 1958 and I love it. The man was pure genius. Not only did he write fantastic plays, look rather dapper, pen the sublime “Brief Encounter” and some corking good poems but he was also a very wise man:
“It is hard to imagine, considering the inherent silliness, cruelty and superstition of the human race, how it has contrived to last as it has. The witch hunting, the torturing, the gullibility, the massacres, the intolerance, the wild futility of human behaviour over the centuries is hardly credible. And the laws, as they stand today, are almost inconceivably stupid. With all this brilliant scientific knowledge of atom splitting and nuclear physics etc. We are still worshipping at different shrines, imprisoning homosexuals, imposing unnecessary and completely irrelevant restrictions on each other. Hearts can be withdrawn from human breasts, dead hearts, and, after a little neat manipulation, popped back again as good as new. The skies can be conquered. Sputniks can go round and round the globe and be controlled and guided. People are still genuflecting before crucifixes and Virgin Marys, still persecuting other people for being coloured or Jewish or in some way different from what they apparently should be. There are wars raged at the moment in Indonesia, Algeria, the Middle East. Cyprus etc. The Pope will make pronouncements against birth control. The Klu-Klux-Klan is still, if permitted, ready to dash out and do some light lynching. God for millions of people is still secure in his heaven...”
I think Noel’s words still ring true today and sadly lots of things haven’t changed in over 50 years.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Poems: Giving Up Smoking

I'm redressing the balance of my cynicism and dedicating this one to Paul, my partner in addiction.

Giving Up Smoking

by Wendy Cope

There's not a Shakespeare sonnet
Or a Beethoven quartet
That's easier to like than you
Or harder to forget.

You think that sounds extravagant?
I haven't finished yet -
I like you more than I would like
To have a cigarette.

Unsurprisingly, Wendy Cope gave up smoking shortly before writing this poem. She wrote: "People who have never been addicted to nicotine don't understand what an intense love poem it is."

Poems: Unfortunate Coincidence

I'm known for my cynicism and despite recent declarations of love, I still think Dorothy Parker has a point.

Unfortunate Coincidence

by Dorothy Parker

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying ---
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

Ramblings: Stormy Weather

An ex partner of mine once commented that I don’t actually like weather. He was right in some ways. I think, what he was succinctly saying, was that I moan a lot about the weather all year round. I think he was also implying that I moan a lot about everything. I was thinking about this during the week as England was hit by a spot of freak weather. Temperatures were up to an unseasonal 29 degrees and we had the sort of temperatures you’d normally expect mid August. Naturally, I complained a lot.
In winter I yearn for daylight and spring bulbs and miss my sunglasses. In Spring I long for summer and not having to wear a coat. In summer I sweat a lot and miss my coat and in autumn I dread the coming winter and hate the messiness of the dying foliage.
I don’t really like hot weather much for that matter. I’m fair skinned, sweat a lot and burn. Sun bathing makes me restless and uncomfortable and gives me a headache. I hate to see too much exposed flesh, unless it’s on a particular foxy man. Let’s face it though; it’s not usually the foxy men exposing too much flesh once the sun shines. It’s more likely to be a middle aged man with a paunch or a larger lady.
Public transport is even more of a nightmare than usual. The concept of deodorising is alien to many and the bus drivers seem to sadistically turn the heaters up high once it hits the mid twenties. Work is no fun, hospitals aren’t great at the best of times but during a hot spell they’re no fun at all. The struggling NHS can’t splash out on air con when there are hips to be replaced.  Plastic aprons and gloves aren’t much fun to wear on a ward in high temperatures. I accept this but hate it equally.  
No one looks good in flip flops. Feet should be hidden at all times and this should be enshrined in law. I get hay fever (of course) and itch and sneeze a lot. Life becomes an ordeal in extreme heat. Doing anything involves an effort to shrug off the associated torpor first. Bugs love me and I’m a martyr to bites and heat lumps. Harsh sunlight can be so bleak and stark.
Mind you, we’re more likely to get rain than hot sunshine. I dislike rain. It’s annoying and there’s that whole business of when it’s too early or too late to put up your umbrella. That’s if you’ve remembered your umbrella or if the wind isn’t too strong to hold one aloft. Public transport is again a nightmare as the masses reek of damp trouser and drip and steam all over the buses. The greyness and lack of sun is depressing too. It’s certainly no fun being a smoker in the rain, sheltering under a tree to indulge in your illicit pleasures. Spectacle wearing is no walk in the park either. They never come with little windscreen wipers.
Did I just mention wind? Windy weather is such a pain. The irritating force to contend with as it makes your eyes water. It’s not good to be buffeted unless you’re in a rush and you’re lucky enough to have the rare joy of the wind behind you. You’re more likely to get chapped skin and facial neuralgia. It keeps you awake at night with its ghostly howling. Its nastiness is trumped only by snow.
Snow is the most evil of all. We don’t cope with it well in Britain. The country grinds to a halt as we step out in shoes with no grip and unsuitable trousers which end up rimed with salt. We slip and slide and have palpitations as we lurch our way towards fractures and imminent traction. It’s a scary business. It hurts and my memories of being an openly gay 15 year old schoolboy on a snowy day involve snowballs slamming into the back of my head along with the taunts. I still get a ball of dread when i wake up and it’s snowed, until I remember that at 40, I no longer have to worry about the walk to school.
One type of weather I do love is a storm. As a child, I was out on the local park and lightening struck the ground ten feet from where I was. It was an amazing sight and being aged about 5, I didn’t perceive the danger, just thought it was a dazzling spectacle. The local church got struck too which seemed a strange thing to happen. I loved the storms I experienced in Paris one August, incredibly dramatic and powerful and quite humbling. Mind you, the atmospheric tension does tend to give me a right headache so on second thoughts, storms are out of the equation too.  
Maybe he was right. I just don’t like weather. I’m definitely not one of those people who describe themselves as “outdoorsy” and have been known to call myself “indoorsy”. Perhaps it’s just outside which I dislike.
We’re probably quite lucky in Britain; we don’t have too many extremes of weather, just a general greyness. We shouldn’t moan about it but we generally do. That’s the answer I think, I’m just English.

I'll leave you with a lovely moany poem by the brilliant Wendy Cope.

'English Weather'

by Wendy Cope:

January's grey and slushy,
February's chill and drear,
March is wild and wet and windy,
April seldon brings much cheer.
In May, a day or two of sunshine,
Three or four in June, perhaps.
July is usually filthy,
August skies are open taps.
In September things start dying,
Then comes cold October mist.
November we make plans to spend
The best part of December pissed