Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Feel The Heat !

I have a saying, “it’s never too hot”. I mean it. No climate can ever be too hot for me. I watch the international weather report on television and keep an eye out for “Muscat” where the average daytime temperature hovers at around 40 degrees Celcius, and I think to myself “if only”! My disability has left me really thin, literally skin and bones, or as one person so aptly put it, a “stickman”. The result is that I lose heat rapidly, and when I do, I struggle to regain it.

The added problem is that my limited muscle strength turns me off wearing layers of warm clothing, gloves, boots, etc. I feel like the proverbial Michelin Man, only less mobile! I’m at my most comfortable in a t-shirt and tracksuit pants, that’s all, and ninety percent of the time I’m also without shoes. My home is my castle, and I like to “walk” around inside it dressed for comfort, not in defiance of the elements. I know people who wear jackets and jerseys inside their own homes. Some even walk around draped in a blanket! It makes no sense to me, unless of course one cannot afford heating.

My hands and fingers feel the cold first, and when they freeze up they stop working, so my priority is always to keep my hands warm. I use a variety of methods, from hugging-a-mug, to immersing my hands into a hand basin of hot water, to holding a nifty gel hand warmer a mate bought me in London. All work, but only for a limited time. The key is my inner body warmth, and for that I need my home to be warm.

It has to be said that our houses in South Africa are not properly insulted, for winter or summer. We live in solid brick and mortar homes but they leak heat like sieves. I recall my first trip to New York in winter, sitting at a window looking out at the snow in the garden, looking down and noticing that the windowsill, and corresponding house wall where I was positioned, was wafer thin, yet I was as warm as toast, while it was snowing outside. For the first time the importance of proper insulation dawned on me. Northern hemisphere prefabricated buildings are better insulated than the most expensive of our southern hemisphere mansions. Somewhere along the way we became lazy in South Africa and missed some important lessons.

Fortunately my wife shares my liking for warmth, which is a good thing. She has more meat on her bones, but will readily admit that she would make a lousy adventure racer, or explorer. Being cold, and possibly wet, is not for her. My mother is the complete opposite. She’s always wanted to travel to the Antarctic, but I warn all interested parties that she will want to sleep with the tent flap open! A good friend of mine has the problem that he likes the cold, and his wife likes the warmth. One of the stranger results of their union is their duvet, which is stitched down the middle, with his side devoid of stuffing, and his wife’s side filled with extra fluff! He sleeps kaalgat, she comes to bed with socks on. Fortunately they love each other!

Only once have we come close to uttering that magical phrase, “I’m too hot”. It was in Las Vegas where the already hot and dry desert air was reflected back at us off the endless concrete pavements, concrete buildings, tarred road surfaces, metal signage, etc. Every hard surface acted as a magnifier and multiplier of the heat. Little wonder they are draining the Colorado River dry to irrigate their fountains and water features. Anything to soften the surroundings. The effect was heightened by the near Arctic setting on all the interior air-conditioning. It made the movement into, or out of, buildings something of a body shocking experience!

By the time you read this we will be moving into winter and I will be eyeing Muscat on the television with envy, and my panel heater with new found affection, whilst the electricity box grins knowingly across at me in the kitchen! We will be entering the season where getting warm, and staying warm, becomes my major priority. Fortunately there are a couple of alternative internal heating methods, such as a good risotto, jambalaya, or Loretta’s famous putanesca, and of course red wine! Sampled often, and in quantity, they help keep the big chill at bay, until we can once again feel the heat.