I must be going soft. Spring keeps deciding to tease us with a couple of promising days and then a blast of cold grey rain. I even heard on the radio yesterday that it may snow in higher regions. Yesterday I deliberately dawdled in the morning so it would be too late for me to cycle to work. It was raining again and Ariane doesn’t work on Fridays so only will-power was going to get me on that bike. But it didn’t.
Because it was so cold during March and we are having this stop-start transition into spring, the plants are going crazy. I suffer from hay fever, and especially birch pollen. This past week has been tough. After every dry day my eyes have been streaming and nose running. The forecast is for rain today but dry tomorrow so no doubt the trees will be getting frisky again for a pollen orgy and I’ll be wandering around in a blur. It’s only three weeks usually and then I’m fine. One down, two to go. But this morning is pretty bad so I have taken a tablet, put some eye-drops in and made myself a cup of some ayurveda tea and got myself settled on the sofa.
So – not cycling to work becasue of a bit of rain, wandering around with a pack of tissues and eye-drops, huddling up on the sofa with a blanket over my legs and not even drinking proper tea. I am definitely going soft. I blame Germany.
As a youth, I was like any proper Yorkshireman. Never cold, a denim jacket was warm enough at any time of year. I never wore a hat – and my hair didn’t provide much insulation even then. I was in a running club, and it had to be almost arctic conditions for us to not wear shorts. In my junior school, the uniform was shorts all year round. I didn’t give it a second thought. We played rugby at school all year round, which meant shorts and a long-sleeved shirt whatever the temperatures. I can remember pushing a kid who then cracked his head open on the side of a frozen mud footprint in front of the goal posts once. Happy days.
Over here they wrap up warm. It can get really cold in winter so there are times of year where it makes sense, but on the whole kids have a lot more on than back in England. The perceived link between being a little underdressed and immediately becoming ill is much stronger. In fact it’s drilled into you all the time. Last weekend was mild and I still heard a neighbour shouting after her daughter to put a hat on – you don’t want to catch a chill.
In offices, people will detect a slight air movement due to an open door somewhere in the building and start worrying about getting a cold, or back pains or a stiff neck. “Hier zieht’s” – there’s a draught here – is something you hear a lot. They’d hate it in Yorkshire. Because the buildings are generally older, not built to such a high standard combined with single glazing and ill-fitting doors, there is always air moving around. And in winter the moist maritime air makes it feel even colder even if the temperature guage is higher than back in Germany.
Peoples houses are also kept a few degrees cooler than in Germany. They are so big on insulation, double-glazing and efficient heating here that most houses are a constant 20 degrees all year round. I have got used to this which probably explains why I am going soft. I still like going out in stormy conditions and I love it when it snows, but I am always wrapped up really warm and have more than one hat so I never have to go out bare-headed.
But there is hope. My daughters seem to have at least picked up some of the Yorkshire spirit. They are constantly going out with “not enough on”. Ariane has given up reminding them to put on enough clothing and I think I detect some pride in her voice when she explains to neighbours why our kids are unsuitably dressed. “They’re half English.”