Beat the heatwave

What did we do before airconditioning?

The same as what most of the population still does — sweat it out.

Mind you, now we are dealing with global warming to the point where I wouldn’t mind a sea level rise to the edge of my compound.

I suspect the worst of the heat hits us urbanites, surrounded as we are by breeze-blocking buildings, fume-emitting traffic and bare stumps where trees once shaded us.

We can’t do anything about the weather, I’m not talking long-term climate change strategies in which we should all be involved. I mean the daily muggy, fuggy, sticky, icky weather conditions.

Nothing except complain to each other. Those nice people I meet in the street who say so nicely “hi, how are you?” really don’t deserve the snarled reply: “Hot, like everyone else?”

Taking advantage of the slightly cooler conditions of the early morning, when it is actually cool enough to sleep, I drag myself from my damp bedsheets and totter around flinging open doors and windows that weren’t already flung.

By this time the animals notice the household is stirring and start demanding breakfast. I pause lengthily in front of the open refrigerator, not because I don’t know the dog food is on the bottom shelf but because I enjoy the blast of cool air.

Then I hear the inner voice speaking in the tones of my mother: “Shut that fridge door before you let in the hot air. Electricity costs money, you know.”

Of course I know, she told me often enough. Then I remember I forgot to switch off the overhead fan when I left the bedroom and have to plod back.

Over whose head, I wonder, standing for a few moments in the small whirlwind the fan creates. No matter how I position the bed or myself, it seems to blow exclusively on my right foot.

I know this because sometime after midnight I am frequently roused by cramp screwing my foot into a tiny bunch of agonised toes. I feel like a victim of medieval Chinese foot binding.

It will not go away by lying in bed and groaning, you must sit up and plant your foot on the floor.

The foot hurts, it doesn’t want to get planted. But if you don’t, the calf muscle starts to get involved and now feels like someone has pushed a tennis ball up the leg under the skin.

Stand up, totter and lurch into the kitchen, and hobble around to find what you did with the salt jar for a pinch to place on your tongue. Swig it down with a drink of water.

While you wait for what is, I am so grateful to say, almost instant relief, you have time to go to the bathroom. Every time I stand up between about 10pm and 6am, my body thinks my bladder needs emptying. Between genuinely needing to go and cramps, I spend quite a lot of the night time scampering around the house.

I’ve been battling with incipient arthritis of knee and foot which I must say does not improve with cramp. But I was advised to roll my foot around on a tennis ball to help.

The fatal flaw in this advice was to find a tennis ball, of which we seemed to have dozens until I needed one. I finally spotted a squash ball that more or less worked until the dog took it. Where, I do not know.

Then I found a child’s toy kit of some sort with a fluffy pink and green tennis ball. I have no idea what happened to it, but it is now a very odd shape and has a gaping hole.

I was accused of stamping on it, but you try stamping a tennis ball to bits — not possible, especially for someone with incipient arthritis and intermittent cramp. It doesn’t roll any more, but the children can use it as a finger puppet.

An important thing in hot weather is to have your morning shower early in an attempt to get dry afterwards. Try to avoid the problem of being wetter with perspiration after towelling than after showering.

The excruciating exercise of getting dressed in hot weather is monumentally frustrating. If hauling a pair of panties over a damp bottom is difficult, try pulling a sports bra onto a perspiring torso.

Sometimes I just want to wrap my dripping body in a clean sulu and lie down under the fan until winter. But I don’t, because I’d just have to keep getting up to deal with the cramps.

The very best thing is to take your mat and your hand fan under the mango tree and make the most of the occasional breeze — ask any sensible islander.

? The writer is a regular contributor to this column. Views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper.

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