15 May 2009

Two thoughts

I went out this morning at about 6:30 AM to mail a letter. The weather is horrible, cold, rainy and foggy as well. It is 10°C outside and I ought to be grateful the wind is not yet high; that increases the wind chill and makes it seem a lot colder.

My neighbour has a fake owl in his doorway. It is supposed to hoot when anyone approaches, having a motion sensor built into the eyes. Since the batteries died and were never  replaced, it’s been pretty quiet, so this morning I was surprised to hear hooting while walking to the mailbox. Funny thing is, the hooting followed me (never reducing or gaining in loudness) way out to the car park. I was a bit concerned; was I the first schizophrenic to hear hooting instead of voices?

I heard it again coming back in, and looked around really carefully. Ha! I found a large black/grey owl in the trees overhead, following me. Yeah, I guess I am a wizard of sorts.

Anyway, the cold also brought to mind a cartoon I saw in one of the newspapers, but which I can’t find this morning to link to. It showed a reporter interviewing Chris Gayle (West Indies cricket captain) after a test match and the excuse for poor performance (losing people, losing) was that it was too cold – the match having taken place at Lord’s.

The general portrayal of that cartoon led me to believe that Chris Gayle was being mocked (and his team mates as well) for feeling the cold while playing cricket at 14°C.

The thought that occurred to me is that West Indians who have never travelled outside the region should not be too quick to judge.

The coldest night on record in Trinidad and Tobago was in August 1997 I believe, at 17°C. That night people were reaching for 2 blankets, and wearing socks, extra tee-shirts, and woollen track pants to bed.

A typical morning in Trinidad (is it different elsewhere in the Caribbean?) is about 22° to 23° at the coldest. Drop that temperature by 8° and that is what the boys were facing in their cricket gear. No extra bulky clothing to hamper them in running and fielding or batting, so they had to take whatever they were facing.

I came to England at the end of November, on a day that was 11°C. I remember I was told to dress warmly but leaving Tobago on a hot, sweaty evening around 35° didn’t really make sense to put on a winter coat or extra layers. So I was dressed in jeans, a tee-shirt and sneakers (or trainers as they call sneakers in England). I carried my padded jacket in my arms.

Stepping off the plane was like stepping into a refrigerator. I’d never felt so cold in my life, even with my coat on. I turned a sort of carroty orange colour in minutes and I swear, I thought I’d never get warm again. To make it worse, the house I came to had no heating (the boiler broke down) and all we had was a fireplace (gas not wood) and trust me, I spent the next week covered in blankets in front of a roaring fire. What made it worse was that during the flight some sort of bleach in the hold fell on my suitcase (completely soaked through) while it was being handled and all my clothing were ruined, so I had no extra clothing to wear… I borrowed outer clothing such as jumpers and cardigans from a friend.

Getting caught in rain here is no picnic either. If any Caribbean person wishes to feel what that is like, I suggest you go to your fridge and empty the container of water you have there over your head. Slowly…

Me, I’d say the boys made a damn hard effort, and I congratulate them for even going out onto the bloody pitch. I’d have stayed in front of the fire with a hot toddy.