Wednesday, 28 September 2011

27 September 2011. Letter 34

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 19.22 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford, 27/9/11. Amount of my day wasted: 14 minutes.

Well met, Mark! What ho, Sue!

It's another day, it's another delay, it's another letter to waste your time in return. There's a certain inevitability about it, isn't there? There's a certain order to it. We're at the still point of a turning world, Mark - as everything collapses around us (the global economy, the European Union, the laws of physics, the British press, the Catholic Church, Arsenal's back four) we alone stand firm. We remain inviolate. You waste my time, I waste your time, strike up the band and let's keep the whole sorry dance going.

Still: at least it's nice weather, eh? Hotter than Hawaii, that's what they're saying! Sue: you don't know what you're missing! As you conga and calypso around the cocktail joints of Corfu and Casablanca, keeping a cardi on to ward against the cool of the evening, me and Mark and everyone else back here are all-but going topless. We're stripping off, Sue! We're exposing ourselves to the power of the sun! We're soaking up those UV rays, browning ourselves like so many slow-roasting lamb shanks. It's lovely! Doesn't it sound lovely, Sue?

Of course it does: it's an Indian Summer, Sue! It's totally subcontinental!

Interesting aside: do you know why it's called an Indian Summer, Mark? When you get a heatwave so late in the year like this? That's right! An Indian Summer is a period of hot weather following the first frost of autumn - and is so named after the prevailing climactic conditions of the Indian subcontinent. To wit - frost. It's awfully frosty in India, Mark! Not for nothing is Jaipur known as "The Frosty City". It's no accident that Bangalore is nicknamed "Frostalore" by the locals. (Also: Mumbai - Frostai, Delhi - Frosthi, Hyderabad - Frosterabad.)

The average temperature in India, Sue, is a distinctly chilly 2 degrees Celsius... all except for one week of the year, around late September, when the unique confluence of the Mid Atlantic Drift, the South Pacific Peripherique and the passing of Orion into Uranus send temperatures rocketing into the mid-80s. Hence: Indian Summer. A period of hot weather following frost.

(That single sunny week of the year is also when every single movie, TV programme and still photograph of India is filmed, made or taken, Mark. That's why it always looks so nice to us westerners who don't actually live there.)

Meteorology, Sue. That's the thing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

But, geographical oddities aside and whatever the reason for the season, there's no denying it's lovely out. It reminds me of previous Indian Summers, Mark! The Indian Summers of my youth! That Indian Summer I was laid up in my flat with a broken leg, for example, and I passed the time watching my neighbours in the apartment block opposite. I saw some sights, I can tell you! There was the pianist, the ballet dancer, the newlyweds, the lady with the cat in the basket... and some right old rum-to-do with the chap opposite! Why, if it wasn't for my girlfriend at the time I'm not sure what would have happened. I must tell you more about it sometime: it's a great story, Mark! (She was a looker, too: looked just like Grace Kelly she did!)

Or I could tell you about that other Indian Summer, the one I spent at an archaeological dig in Egypt, looking for the Ark of the Covenant. Goodness, Mark! What a summer that was! There was a spot of trouble with our German friends, an awful episode with some snakes, and to top it all I nearly lost my favourite hat!

Or there was that (other) other Indian Summer, Sue, the one in my teenage years, when the crazy old Scientist who lived in the next street lent me his DeLorean car and I ended up back in 1955 and met my own Mum and Dad and taught Chuck Berry how to play Johnny B Goode and got chased around a bit by a bloke called Biff...

You know what, Mark? I should write these down properly, shouldn't I? Reading them again: they're great stories! There might be something in them, y'know? I reckon I could sell 'em to someone! Hollyoaks are always on the look out for interesting plot twists, I hear. And don't even start me on my time in 'Nam, up the Mekong river looking for this crazy bald guy called Kurtz...

But here's the thing, Mark. Although I've enjoyed many Indian Summers in a variety of interesting places and with a host of fascinating people, I'm not sure I've ever spent an Indian Summer sitting on a tired old train (if I'm lucky - otherwise standing on a tired old train) looking at my watch as my life ticks endlessly past me, cursing the fact I'm paying £450 a month to go nowhere slowly. This Indian Summer might be a first for that.

Au revoir!


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