Morning Mist

I love morning mists, I have missed them so much. There is no better way to start the day than awakening into a cloud, to view the gentle undulations of wisps in the treetops, the tingle of tiny water particles on your skin, to see shafts of sunlight breaking through.

I can’t believe that I’ve written umpteen blog posts without a proper rant about the weather, how very unbritish of me.

It is one of the ways I first noticed that I was an outsider, was as a young child; that I disliked being out in the sunshine, whilst everyone seemed to love it, and that others disliked rain, and I didn’t mind it at all.

To myself, I seem to be the logical one. In summer sunshine:

it’s too bright, you have to squint up your eyes, actively vary the amount of light entering your eyes, which I find a pain the backside. You have this annoying tingle on exposed skin. I sweat, constantly, which is sticky and uncomfortable. You wear light clothing, so can’t carry around equipment, without the carrying spot being a burden of a very sweaty patch. When you seek shelter in the shade or return home, it’s still too warm and sticky, sometimes I have to sleep with a ruddy noisy fan on.Everyone else expects you to feel happy and alive, when you feel the opposite.

Tommorrow, Autumn begins, my favourite season, nine whole months until wretched summer comes around again! I’m mildly claustrophobic, I hate not being able to escape. That is why I’m not a summer fan. In the winter, the wet and cold can be escaped, you can warm and dry yourself by a cosy fire in a way you can’t cool and dry yourself in those very hot summer days. The winter water runs and dances in streams, rather than lurk and stagnate.

Apparently, people’s moods are directly affected by the weather. I’m affected myself, but at different times and direction to the majority of people. I also think that people’s character and personality are influenced by the weather, not directly, but rather in two distinct ways:

1/ Individually, we have an expectation of ‘normal’ weather, the weather we grew up with, what we compare current weather with. For example: When I was in Surrey, parts of my mind kept flagging up that it hadn’t rained recently, or that the ground was always very dry. In Wales I can tell, just by being outside and feeling the atmosphere and glancing at the clouds, generally how long it will be until rain and how heavy it will be. i have learnt how Welsh weather works. Everywhere else in the world I get caught out, unprepared!

2/ Culturally, our root culture is shaped by the prevailing weather. For example: I was working in a small village in Indonesia, everyday was hot and sweaty for all of the people from temperate climes, it started raining, we just carried on working as we would at home, refreshed by the cooling water on our already damp clothes. The local villagers laughed at us! When the rain started, the locals all ran to the nearest rain shelter, every collection of houses had a rain shelter where they would gather and socialise for the twenty minutes or so of rain, then when it stopped, go back to work. Their culture had developed an effective way of dealing with how rain worked there, i.e. usually in short 10-20 minute bursts. In Wales, nothing would ever get done if we stopped doing things when it started raining!

People ask me sometimes: If I hate hot and sunny conditions so much, why it is I absolutely love spending time in the tropics? Partly it’s the sheer wonder of a completely different natural and social environment to explore. Partly it’s the normal state of things and behavior adapts to the sunny state and the monsoon rainy state. It’s actually really refreshing not to have the constant undulations and changes in the weather conditions, a state of constancy which changes the way your mind works, fixing you in place,  a new freedom rather than flecked with concern for  the self-questioning of stuff that may need doing before it gets too wet.

I am different, in terms of the weather at least, I have learnt to live with the differences between myself and my own culture, and enjoy the sense of sharing things with my own culture that I am not different with, I particularly love finding shared things in different cultures.  I am shaped by the world and the weather, yet feel free to be different and able to feel the opposite of the weathers mood direction, which is a good place to be, whatever the weather

The Civilised Game

I have been back home in civilisation in Wales for a week or so. I am so pleased to be home and am a lot more happy and relaxed. I think the reason I was unhappy in Surrey, England as it lost the cilvilised game on almost every count, apart from access to cultural events in London.

So, what is the civilised game? It is a game I’ve often played with friends living in different regions of the UK and the rest of the world. The aim of the game is to establish which of two areas is more ‘civilised’ than the other. Points are scored for a region through the identification of aspects of the society that are more ‘civilised’, or represent things that are relatively better in one place compared to another. When playing the civilised game with friends, the shouting out of the phrase “uncivilised country” has become ensconced when a identifying a facet of lack of civilisation.

The game does become rather silly at times, only wierdos like me want good ice cream in the winter, but as a means of a comparative study of cultures, it is useful. It is also a means of measuring how far a society is from achieving it’s own cultural ideals. The game is also an interesting is  interplay between the two protagonists own cultural ideals and how and where they differ from the other ‘player’.

The basis of playing the civilised game is simply identifying things that you find annoying or positive about another culture. For example, I shall compare two English cities I have lived in, if you are from either city, please don’t take offense, I love both cities!

Bristol versus Manchester (B=Bristol is better, M= Manchester is better)

Access to decent bread B
Relative price and quality of beer M
Percentage of income spent on accommodation M
Liklihood of having a nice chat with a random stranger M
Availability of civilised nightlife B
Quality of food M
Ease of being vegetarian B
General prettiness of local ladies [ahem] =
Quality of local music scene M
Quality of local scenery M
Climate =

In this limited example, Manchester is more civilised than Bristol. Sorry Bristol, you do have rubbish chippies though!  It’s kind of like the game ‘Top Trumps’, each place will have a score for each criteria, civilised places will generally win. Uncivilized places will usually have some aspect of quality of life living there that will trump somewhere else. This is what i personally didn’t get about Surrey, it’s the top trump card you don’t want to have. It is subjective, some people love living in Surrey, this is probably largely determined by your upbringing and what the culture you grew up with values highly.

Obviously, Wales scores fairly highly on most of these example criteria. As i get older it seems that civilisation globally is in decline, even in Wales (the local bread shop sells rather poor bread for example). This seems to be a consequence of laissez-faire economics or globalisation. It is the powers of marketing seeking to homogenise the cultures of the world and increase demand for products that can easily be reproduced globally, rather than allowing established local solutions to continue and develop. it seems that the goal of utility, of seeking ways of making life easier for everyone takes a subsidiary role to the market. It is now the big producers powering demand, rather than the local consumer, the multi-national chain displacing the family run business, even when there is no economic efficiency gain from such a change.

Anyway, I’m at home and spared from playing the civilised game with myself.