‘While the sun was up, it was a beating, flailing heat, but now the heat came from below, from the earth itself, and the heat was thick and muffling’ (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939).For a week, in the North East of the American continent, have we laboured in the unremitting heat, compounded by the bone-wearying humidity, of torturous summer. I shall maintain my vow not to bore you with tails of marathon-training woe, merely pointing out en passant that to run in such heat is to add sweat and blood to the tears of sultry misery. Yet we soldier on, for nothing so trivial as the weather shall deter us from our task.
Today we had a most welcome relief sent in the form of passionate of rain. Mrs. VB and I were taking our morning constitutional, undeterred by the oppressive air, and were met with a deluge the likes of which I have seldom known outside of biblical tales. The streets flowed as rivers; our clothing hung from us, saturated by the weight of walls of water; and steam rose from the scorched earth. Sharing a moment of relief, we laughed and stomped through the storm, knowing it to be better to enjoy our fate than to resist it.
As we continued we met others, also promenading through the thunderous and teeming sky. The sense of shared experience, our mutual reduction to primal pleasures, broke the usual boundaries of stifling urbanity and communal anonymity. In this most peculiar of circumstances, there was great joy. Greetings were shared; smiles proffered; shouts of joy raised in exultant and common relief. Those in cars, reduced to a crawl by the severity of the downpour, looked on with smug satisfaction from their dry refuges, while we happy few pitied their torpid inertia, knowing well that a pedestrian life was, for once, to live.
Forgive an Englishman for talking of the weather. It is a national pastime, if not a veil for our awkwardness. But then, an Englishman never met with such drama in his perambulations.