Yes, it may be May. But the weather has taken a while to get the message.
The start of last month was the coldest on record since the 60s; it’s only been a matter of weeks since I last reported severe snow in Wales; and it’s fair to say most of us are hardly out of overcoats and thick tights. Winter has so hogged the limelight this year, that Spring has barely yet sneaked a turn on the seasonal stage and Summer is still somewhere in the wings, learning its lines.
It hasn’t always been so shy of attention. Unless my memories are belied by nostalgia, I’m sure I remember long, hot adolescent summer times played out to the soundtrack of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. So why has balmy Britain retreated to the shadows? Well, science is working on that. Recently, a hardy ITV news crew visited a small research station in the Arctic. There they spoke to experts who believe that rapid melting of the ice may be responsible. A smaller temperature difference between the Arctic and us, means a slower jet stream and longer spells of colder temperatures here.
The result: weirder winters and a nation deficient in Vitamin D. With reserves in short supply, we’ve all been in extended hibernation until things warm up a degree or two.
Tortoises, perhaps, can teach us a thing or two about this.
When they wake from their seasonal slumber, they’re moved to a vivarium. Originating from hotter climes, spring temperatures here are a shock to their system. So, a heated tank aids their safe recovery.
Well, thankfully, the tortoise technique does have a human equivalent. My husband Lee and I found it in London. It’s called a ‘Real Sunlight Room’. They’re slowly springing up in spas across the UK. It’s the same idea already used to treat some skin conditions, but now it’s commercially available. It’s not a tanning facility, but instead claims to use ‘sunlight simulators to safely replicate natural sunlight and deliver the sun’s proven health benefits.’ Well, I can’t speak for any proven health benefits but, in the depths of sun deprivation, I consider £20 pounds for 30 minutes worth it if only to lie back, close my eyes and believe I was on a beach in Bali.
However, whilst my experience of the exotic on a damp day in the capital was blissful, it also induced panic the moment I pulled on a bikini. I was rudely reminded that my mind may have been transported to the heart of summer, but my body was still very much stuck in the deep, dark depths of winter. And my winter self was by no means prepared for any big reveal. I removed my robe gingerly, suitably ashamed. The whole thing was more ‘Embarrassing Bodies‘ than ‘Baywatch‘ : sprouting legs, reptilian skin and jagged toenails.
I think I’d thought walking into a roomful of summer would be like walking out for Stars In Their Eyes – a puff of smoke and my skin, hair and nails would be instantly radiant, glistening and manicured. It turned out my human vivarium didn’t provide that service. It did, though, provide me with a stack of beauty magazines telling me what I should have been doing and what I might have looked like if I had.
I realised I’d best get started. There was some serious catching up to be done.
But, Summer, please bear with us until we’re ready to bare with you. We have endured the longest hibernation and, like the tortoises, we are waking from it as fast as we can.