The air is thick and heavy as I ride home. It’s an effort to cycle in this heat: the harder I pedal, the slower it seems like I’m going. I can feel sweat beginning to pool on my chin, upper lip, forehead, and trickles of it down my back and behind my knees. The tops of my thighs – barely covered by my rather short shorts – are sticking painfully to my saddle.
Not for the first time over the past couple of weeks, I find myself thinking how wonderful a bit of rain would be right now. Maybe even a thunderstorm.
If there’s one thing I thought we’d had more than enough of lately, it’s rain. Not so long ago the idea of wanting more, rather than less, would have seemed crazy. But that was before the current heatwave started. Since sometime earlier this month – the exact date escapes my heat-befuddled brain – the temperature in London has been in the mid-twenties (that’s degrees Celsius, in case you were wondering) or higher every single day. Even at night, the mercury has barely been dropping: night time lows are not that far off the kind of daytime highs we were getting not so many weeks ago.
Incredibly, it hasn’t rained at all for pretty much the entire month. Ordinarily, a few days of this kind of weather would be followed by a thunderstorm. The air would clear, the temperatures would drop and we’d be back to normal. But this month we simply haven’t had one – not yet, anyway.
Complaining about the weather is something we Brits are very good at. Whatever it happens to be doing at the time, we’d like it to do the opposite. I’m probably as guilty as anyone else: though I’ve been trying very hard not to, a few grumbles have slipped out. But as sticky and unpleasant as it can be to cycle in this heat, would I really want it go back to rain and dull, leaden skies?
I love cycling in the morning sunshine, while the air is still cool. I love the warmth and sunlight on my skin, and the way it makes me feel more alive and more energised.
I love that I’m not cooped up in overcrowded, sweltering tube trains. I love that I don’t have to rush out at lunchtime to catch the sunshine, as I’ve already caught it on my way in – or I can stop off at Hampstead Heath on my way home.
I love cycling home at the end of a long evening. I’m normally such a speedy cyclist, always hurrying, but at the end of the day my pace has been slowing to a more languorous pootle. I’ve been savouring the warm night air, the long twilight, the scent of the night flowers and the sound of the swallows flying overhead. It’s been wonderful.
There are, of course, things about cycling in this weather that I most definitely don’t love. I don’t love the journey home in the full heat of the day. I don’t love sweating quite so much. I don’t love that the water in my bottle is usually too warm to be refreshing before I’ve got half way home.
And I really don’t love not being able to sleep at night – my room is south-facing, and even with the windows and curtains shut all day and a fan blowing, it’s still like an oven. Cycling in the energy-sapping heat and humidity when I’m tired already from sleep deprivation is not fun.
But I can put up with all these things, because I know they’re not going to last for ever. The thunderstorms are on their way – I already felt a few drops of rain when I went out earlier. And when they come, though I’ll be grateful for the respite, I’ll be wishing for the sun to return.