CORNISH-L ArchivesArchiver > CORNISH > 1998-02 > 0887982002
From: Alan Trevarthen <>
Subject: Re: UK Weather
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 98 13:40:02 -0000
>I lived in North Wales for 18 years and I still couldn't get my Aussie
>blood warm. The first summer I was there, there was a heat wave of 82
>degrees, everyone was stripped to the waist (the men anyway) whilst I wore
Dear Margaret in Australia
All visitors say the same thing.
We have to accept that the rest of the world has been spoilt by softer living.
When the temperature goes above 15 Celsius, my mother in Hayle comes in from her gardening saying "Tis swelterin, I'm boiling, I can't stand it out there any longer"
Meanwhile all the visitors are shaking with cold inside their quilted parkas.
When I was in Liberia I sent a young Liberian Mining Engineer to the Camborne School of Mines on a two week course during June. He bought 4 sweaters while he was there and wore all 4 at the same time until he got back to Liberia.
For anybody visiting Cornwall from Continental climates like the USA or mainland Australia it is worth remembering that :
1 - What we call the Gulf Stream you would call the North Atlantic.
2 - Cornwall is semi submerged in this.
3 - During NON-El Niño years the temperature of this huge water bath is temperate. i.e. it is about the body temperature of a pilchard.
4 - The air blowing onshore from this mass of water is either :
4a - Leaking rain in liquid form in various intensities, varying from a grey misty aerosol you can't see two fathoms through (referred to as sea fog or drizzle), up to a horizontal driving type known as 'enting down, and which cascades off everything in its path.
4b - Or else the air holds the water in vapour solution i.e in its invisible vapour state. Here the air seems benign and safe to venture out in, but this "damp air" is actually a gaseous super conductor, 100 percent efficient at increasing the thermal conductivity of air trapped inside clothing. This enables body heat to escape so rapidly that one's body can remain close to the temperature of the nearby ocean.
Sometimes one's ears hurt too and make a ringing sound. This is not tinitus. It is real noise caused by the body shivering at the same frequency as a tuning fork. (usually middle C).
Under conditions of near 100 percent humidity, during any sort of physical effort, water vapour is also given off by the body. This is known as "glowing", "perspiring" or "sweating", depending on whether one is a lady, a gentleman, or a horse.
Such moisture condensing in the dew point zone in the clothing has a deleterious effect on the clothing called "The wet Kleenex effect"
The young locals in Cornwall have developed a technology to overcome these phenomena.
This is to wear only jeans and a Tee shirt no matter what the weather conditions, and to replace the body heat as fast as it is lost by an internal combustion system. i.e by the constant consumation whilst walking around the streets of one or more hot pasties wrapped in a greaseproof bag, or bags of fish and chips. Under extreme conditions of cold or heat the fuel input can be boosted by popping into the pub for a pint.
Readers in more fortunate climes overseas, used to health foods and jogging and excercisers must wonder how the young Briton can keep their figure.
It is true that emigration is the easiest solution.
Sacrifice is also sometimes practiced, a few women over 40 sacrifice all dresses under size 16.
However most Cornish people practice adaptation, as explained by Charles Darwin in his "Survival of the Species" -- what the old people call "getting used to it"
Over eons of generations the Cornish have developed inate skills at balancing their exposure to the elements with their fuel input, and vice versa. In other words, fuel input in kilo calories is balanced exactly by loss of body heat.
(I am talking of lifetime averages here. Evidently the youngsters who go to the all-night discos tend not to eat pasties while dancing so tend to be skinnier).
Other things the visitor to Cornwall should watch out for are the wind and the sun
Often there is a bit of breeze. If it is more than an hour since your last pasty this is sometimes referred to by older people too stiff to shiver as "a raw cold, or cutting, or biting" I think there is even a Cornish or Plymouth song that describes a February or March version of this as "When the wind's like a whetted knife"
A good windproof will deflect 60 percent of this, or walking in the lee of the spouse.
Regarding the sun --- After 4 pm the heat goes out of the sun. Continentals who can sit outside in the evenings in their home country should remember why the pub is a British / Irish institution.
Before 4 pm however the sun carries a lot of zap. In Cornwall the air off the sea is well scrubbed and pollution free. More photons per inch/second can zap naked flesh in Cornwall than city skin is used to.
A lot of naked flesh is seen in Cornwall on the beaches in summer, and to be honest it is much appreciated, enhancing the views in general and the holiday atmosphere of the place.
I am just saying that though lots of people will look at it for you, only you can decide when you've had enough. If you fry it too long it turns red, rolls up, and drops off.
If you have a lot of Saxon or Nordic blood this process can continue until September.
But what to do???
Maybe its not perfect, this climate of ours, but it's ours.
If it was any better, it would be just like as if there were more jobs in Cornwall : the place would fill up with people and look like Hong Kong.
The weather is one of the environmental factors that has made us what we are.
And its traditional too. Who would want to change it?
And remember that Cornwall is packed with micro-climates. If you don't like it where you are nip around the corner into something more perfect that will make you smile and spread and unscrunch.
Alan Trevarthen in the southern Atacama desert, Chile