6:15AM Wednesday. A hot, sticky busride up the A6 to the allotment, under massive, threatening stormclouds. No sooner have I put fork to ground than the sky gives in to the pressure and explodes, causing an instant and cathartic release of sound and fury. After approximately 30 seconds of digging on regardless it occurs that maybe discretion is the better part of valour and perhaps the urgency of getting this year's beancrop transplanted does not outweigh the very real threat of a pinpoint sheet lightning strike leaving me flat in the sodden M19 soil myself, and on a rather permanent basis at that. I retire to the shed and spend the next hour sat on a bag of compost drinking sweet tea out of a flask, watching through a crack in the doorframe the denouement of a lengthy and tense territorial standoff on the rain-spattered concrete paving stones between two particularly ugly fist-sized frogs.
I arrive at work just the ninety minutes late, to the accompaniment of no batting of eyelids whatsoever, the boss being away for the week and the team having adopted with impressive alacrity a postively Mediterranean attitude to time-management. At 5PM I can't stand another minute of pretending to be interested in emails about whatever it is we do on the communities team (I'm having another one of those weeks where I've forgotten), and bolt through the fob-controlled exits into first the street and presently the sweltering innards of a 41 bus, through whose shimmering windowpanes I take in the sights and sounds of a Westside heatwave: to whit, the 'European Style' Cafe Bars of Northenden, upon whose street-facing terraces are arranged in fourstrong musclebound clumps Northenden's substantial population of shaven-headed, sunburnt semi-retired hardmen, who are, this afternoon as every afternoon, engaged in the important business of making steady work of successive tall pints of Stella at £2.50 a pint while exchanging across the picnic tables manly banter and flinty sideways glances dripping with latent froglike bellicosity.
I've been developing (you can possibly tell) a particular fascination with the shaven-headed sunburnt semi-retired hardmen of the suburb of Northenden- although not to the level, clearly, where I might consider disembarking from a sweltering 41 and joining them for a teatime sharpener, such a course of action being loaded with sheetlighteningesque peril. Instead I have been spending the warm summer days indoors grappling with the frightening wiring on Frankie's occasionally functioning trainset. Needless to say the various electrical tasks involved in track maintenance prove way beyond my lay capabilities, and I find myself in the dead of night eavesdropping heated debates on specialist modeller forums, on topics such as the merits of digital versus traditional control and the capacity of rival patent apparatus to deliver that vital slow-running effect to a man's rolling stock. Actually they are quite engaging heated debates and the next thing I know it is three o clock in the morning and the sun (which never really went down) is coming up, and the next thing after that I am at work, sitting bleary-eyed at my airconditioned desk and engaging a man in a workshop in Arundel, West Sussex, in a frank conversation about wiring.
Thanks to the patient ministrations of my new friends on the Guagemaster helpline the trainset is now working, you will be relieved to hear- and Frankie has come back from a week's holiday at his Liverpool grandma's, full of stories about penny falls,and sandcastles, and shrimps 'rescued' from the beach (and found stone dead on the patio the following morning, subsequently afforded a ceremonial burial, complete with a lollipop stick inscribed in biro 'To the Memory of a Marvellous and Wonderful Shrimp'). You know, your standard seaside stuff, when you're nine.
All of which brings us up to date, and it is Sunday night, and there is thunder and lighting raging above M19's leaden skies again, and there is some kind of weekend long AfroCaribbean community barbecue/karaoke festival going on in the field behind the house, and the ancient windows are shaking with the reverberations of homegrown amateur reggae of variable quality being blasted from a microphone-equipped soundsystem housed within the trailer of an articulated lorry adorned with the blocklettered orange and black logo of Salford Van Hire. Which sounds like the start of a new post, so I'd better stop. In the meantime- how is your heatwave going so far? Hypnotised by frogs, at all? Fascinated to the point of peril by suburban hardmen? Struck by lightning (sheet, fork, other?) Hidden in an attic? A shed? The sights, sounds, and underlying suburban bellicose undertones of your own heatwaves, in the comment box, as quick (or as slow) as you want.