For the last month it’s been hot over much of France. Someone has left the door of the African tumble dryer open and waves of heat have rolled up from Africa and crossed upwards into northern France. If rumour is correct, they occasionally cross the Channel to briefly interrupt the rain and cloud of the British Isles.
It’s certainly been consistently hot with us. We haven’t been paying the thermometer on the patio too much attention but it probably hasn’t dropped much below 20 at night and on occasions it’s probably touched 36 during the day. In old money that’s around 70 degrees and 100 Fahrenheit . Those sound pretty horrendous figures but we are very fortunate where we live because the air is dry so you don’t often have the sweat dripping all over you; it just evaporates and the secret is to keep drinking lots of water. It’s actually much preferable to Beirut which got horribly hot and horribly humid so that you ended up endlessly mopping your brow and going through two shirts a day.
Although we have made a couple of trips up to Courmettes and had a brief visit to the UK we’ve been in Taradeau most of the time. We have air-conditioning for the main room but actually we’ve only had it on for a few hours in the last month. What we do is open windows at night and around ten o’clock in the morning when the sun starts to beat down we do what everybody does in this part of the world and pull the wooden shutters across the (closed) windows. And that more or less keeps the heat out.
The swimming pool has been great and it’s been a real blessing to take a break from work in an afternoon or evening and drop into it. Mind you the temperature of the pool has risen and on a couple of occasions it has felt like going into a rather warm bath.
The real help has been the pair of electric fans we have in the house which keep the air moving and make everything much more bearable. On Monday we decided that with guests coming we would go and buy another fan. To our surprise we found that they were sold out absolutely everywhere. One supermarket did at least apologise.
On reflection we have found this significant and just possibly it offers interesting insight into the way the French economy works or, if you subscribe to the Daily Mail, doesn’t. When we bought our second fan a month ago in mid-June as the temperature suddenly started to rise, everybody was already buying them and the hardware stores and supermarkets were selling them as fast as they could. So we assumed that someone, somewhere would be desperately emailing China for another planeload of fans as soon as possible. Now we could stand corrected but that doesn’t seem to happen here. Rather tellingly one shop assistant simply shrugged and said ‘c’est fini’. In other words what appears to be the case is quite simply the normal summer shipment of fans that each shop ordered has actually run out and is finished and not been replaced. No one it seems is interested in urgent supplementary orders. This of course is an allegation along the lines of the famous Bushism that there is no word in French for entrepreneur. Actually, there is a word for entrepreneur and it’s entrepreneur. But the entrepreneurial spirit does seem to be rare. It is perfectly possible that the hasty shipment of fans would require an extraordinarily large amount of paperwork and so isn’t worthwhile. Certainly in Lebanon you would never have run out of fans: someone would have hijacked a Greek containership or they would suddenly be being sold on the street in boxes saying ‘United States Aid: not for sale’. In Britain there would have new supplies rushed in by charter jet, signs saying ‘stock arriving soon’ or even the marketing version of the legendary British queue: ‘order one now for delivery next week’.
Well we will see how long the heatwave lasts. Over the last few days cumulonimbus has been building up to the north of us and we can’t help but think that sooner or later we’re going to get the storm. In the meantime, anyone driving down to visit the south of France might want to think about hiring a big white van and stacking it full of electric fans.