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Climate shock: warming up to life at 4 degrees

I really do like the cold

I really do like the cold

I had a bit of a meltdown. Actually, given that it was on the third day of cycling in 4 degree Celsius weather, my reaction was more of a brain freeze than a melting of any sorts. I was on my way to the drycleaners with my husband’s suits when suddenly I thought ‘No!’ I squeezed the handbrakes and stopped even though the light was green and the person on the bike behind me swore and swerved.

My fingers were numb inside my gloves (how was I the only one wearing gloves?); I felt jailed by the number of layers of clothing I was wearing; my thighs were fed up of pedal pushing against the frigid wind. And it was only mid-October – how was I going to survive the rest of winter?

So, no. No more cold… please.

It is, of course, totally irrational to rant against the weather since there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. I know that, rationally. And what is worse is that I am Canadian. In past chapters of my life I have been totally at peace with the cold: I’ve camped in winter, kayaked on the North Sea in February, I love skiing and skating, I like the independence of cycling and the energy you have in cold weather…

But, for a moment, bubbling up from my subconscious, I wanted to be back in hot, steamy Lagos.

A moment of weakness. I’m sorry, OK?

People call these moments ‘culture shock’, or ‘homesickness’. But it isn’t that. What I felt had nothing to do with the culture of the new place or longing for a past life. It is simply an instinctive, deeply physical reaction to the difference between here and there, then and now. This moment was me going ‘hang on a minute. Something’s not right.’

At the next green light I gave myself a mental kick up the backside and made it to the drycleaners where I complained to the guy behind the counter about just how unreasonably cold it was outside. He commiserated, thankfully. Unfortunately I was the sole client so I was in the tiny shop only long enough to experience the promise of warmth before I was back on the curb again, fumbling with the lock.

That’s when I abandoned my to do list. I got back on my bike and went… shopping. Yep. I resorted to retail therapy. I bought wool socks, thermal undershirts, a fleece and a wind-proof, rain-proof, thickly lined, terribly unfashionable-but-I don’t-care coat.

That evening my husband came home to find me curled up under a blanket on the couch munching my way through a whole Tony’s Chocolonely bar. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘Enough of being Dutch.’ And he cranked the heating up to 21.5 degrees C. I’ve been way less cranky ever since. It was 9 degrees this morning and I almost didn’t need gloves :-).

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