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An Indian summer in England

world Updated: Oct 06, 2011 00:30 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

“This pink haze? It’s disgusting,” the resident teenager said with the opinionated innocence of one who is yet to hear of that other haze that Jimi Hendrix sang about. “No it’s not,” responded the twenty-something immediately. “It’s quite pretty, actually.”

It was 7 a.m., and they were nattering about the weather. These British habits they were born with.

Everyone’s talking about the weather here – and even more enthusiastically than is usual, which in any case tends to be pretty robust stuff. If a neighbour, for instance, says, ‘Nice day, isn’t it,’ you’d be ill-advised to respond with, “Actually, I spotted a really dark raincloud this morning, and it was headed this way.”

Courtesy of a block of a high pressure across central Europe, England’s had some of the hottest September and October days in a century. The day is preluded by a fresh breeze and cool autumnal haze, before nature begins to crank up its heat knob, gradually turning the morning’s mellow sun into a crescendo of intense and searing heat.

Thousands of Britons have headed for the beach, people have stripped off in parks and children have been jumping into public fountains and pools. Barbecues have sizzled. Last weekend alone, Tesco’s the supermarket expected to sell 550,000 burgers, 10mn bottles and cans of beer, 3mn bottles of wine and 500,000 tubs of ice cream.

Everyone here’s calling it an Indian Summer. That’s rubbing it in because they’ve already had one, of course, courtesy of India’s cricket team. But having usurped the No. 1 Test spot from India, England isn’t about to indulge in a spot of climate theft.

Firstly, the phrase itself comes from North America, not India. In 1778, a French farmer called John de Crevecoeur wrote, “Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warmth which is called the Indian Summer; its characteristics are a tranquil atmosphere and general smokiness.”

Second, things are getting back to normal. The mercury is falling, so no one’s taking India’s summer away. However, if you are among the thousands of Indians who head for England every summer, you can probably extend your stay from now on. This pattern is expected to return.