Waking this morning between a warm sheet and duvet, then being struck by the cold air of the bedroom and colder atmosphere of the corridor through to the equally freezing bathroom, I reflected on the vagaries of temperature. Climbing into bed last night, greeted by the shock of wintry sheets, I had soon warmed up. The body has its own internal cumbustion engine. Blessed with a beneficial blood circulation, I am often oblivious of changes in temperature at home in England. The climate there is, on the whole, more temperate than in the Dordogne. Up or down, there is usually a ten degrees centigrade difference.
This area is very hot and arid throughout the long summer months, yet can, for a few brief hibernal weeks, be bitterly cold. Snow is no stranger to Sigoules, but it is a most transient visitor. Judith tells me that they went from minus nineteen to plus nineteen in a fortnight last winter in Razac d’Eymet.
For the first few days I was here this time I kept an electric heater on all day in the living room and – unheard of in England – all night in the bedroom. I slept in my clothes, including socks, and hastily added a dressing gown for my nocturnal trips along the corridor. Although it is still cold I no longer need the heater at night. Last week was so much warmer that I needed no heating at all. Jackie tells me it is now more clement in Hampshire than it is here.
Or have we just become so accustomed to central heating that we forget the freezing winters of our childhood and are no longer robust enough to withstand the temperatures in a mostly unheated stone house? Mind you, it is refreshingly cooler inside during the summer.
The greatest sudden contrast I have experienced was in Perth, Australia in 2007. Louisa, Errol, their infant Jessica, and I arrived at 2.00 a.m. on Christmas morning to stay with the delightful Gay and Mick O’Neill in preparation for Sam’s marriage to Holly. We had abandoned a bleak London to disembark from an Air Singapore plane feeling as if we were walking into an oven. Even at that time it was more than forty humid degrees, in the hottest summer the Australians could remember. There, the essential facility for a home is air conditioning rather than central heating. All the news on our hotel room in Melbourne the following week was either of forest fires or severe flooding in one place or another in that vast continent. The nearest sylvan inferno blazed right up to the end of Mick’s mother’s road.
Jessica fought a long losing campaign to get me into winter woollies. As I sit here in a long lanate Lakeland jumper, I am now grateful that she bought me that one.
I warmed up in Le Code Bar with a scrumptious pulse and noodles soup; a vol-au-vent filled to overflowing with a delicious sauce that just had to be mopped up with bread; a large slice of lean pork cooked on the, minimal, bone and a plentiful platter of crisp chips; completed by two fresh coffee eclairs, probably from the superb boulangerie.
Clouds brought both rain and comparative warmth this afternoon. After tramping around damp and dripping village streets I set off down the D17, took a left turn just before the leisure centre, up a narrow winding byroad, left at the top, and back down past the lake to rue St. Jacques. From the top of his field the mud-spattered donkey silently surveyed my passing on the D17. When I walked by along the hillside track the dogs had their usual go at me. He left them to it.
Today’s title is a parody that of the 1974-1981 television sitcom series ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ based on the adventures of an execrable concert party entertaining the troops in Burma.