Claire Black: Heatwave? Tell me about it. Or rather, don’t

A toddler cools off in the raging ' and, to many Scots, enraging ' heat of London. Picture: PA
A toddler cools off in the raging ' and, to many Scots, enraging ' heat of London. Picture: PA
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‘HOW’S your sister?” To me, it seemed a fairly innocuous question. My partner and her sister are close. They send pictures of each other’s babies by WhatsApp when they a) sit on a bit of grass they’ve never sat on before b) wear a new outfit c) get yoghurt all over their faces. Given that both babas are under two, this is a lot of photographs. So no biggie, right?


The question may have sounded simple but it provoked a full-scale diplomatic incident that would have required a team of UN officials pulling constant all nighters and may still not have been resolved.

“I’ve no idea,” was the terse reply. Then there was one of those silences during which you wonder how you might reverse time in order that the question had never been uttered and the day might continue unscathed.

“I can’t speak to my sister at the moment because she will tell me how hot it is.”

When I said my partner and her sister are close, I meant it. Emotionally they are peas in a pod; geographically, not so much. Four hundred and fifty miles not so much. Scotland’s east coast and England’s south-east not so much. Or, to be more precise, the haar-harangued, wind-whipped Shore in Leith as opposed to the sun-soaked, tarmac-meltingly hot east London. The way things have been, weather-wise, we might as well be talking Antarctica versus Antigua.

Every night, as the weather forecast comes on and the blobs of yellow and orange dot the bottom right of the country while the yellow on us is a flood warning, more fuel is added to the flames of resentment. Every morning as the radio voices talk about the blistering temperatures and apparently unending hours of sunshine, as our shutters are opened, a tremor of trepidation passes through me. Then eyes are rolled, tutting is heard, there is, at times, swearing. And then the questions begin: “What is wrong with this country?”, “Why do we live here?”, “Why do I live here?”

I know people are talking about things feeling precarious constitutionally-speaking, what with this evil-sounding Evel, a wheeze dreamed up by a drunk, intellectually-challenged monkey apparently – who else would choose Chris Grayling as a spokesperson? But Palace of Westminster shenanigans aside, I have my own crisis going on in our own not quite as spacious but probably in need of less repairs, palace, okay, flat. There is now a ban on speaking to anyone in London because they will inevitably mention how hot it is. Half of our family live there. There is also a ban on watching Wimbledon because for some reason they won’t just shut the roof they spent millions installing and instead seem to be hellbent on showing endless panoramic views of the city skyline shimmering in the heat beneath a cloudless blue sky.

I will never again roll my eyes when someone mentions Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am living with it and it is bad.

Gay pride of England’s Lionesses

IN MY final bit of cross-Border bridge-building, I would like to confirm that I was backing the Lionesses all the way. England’s women’s football team did brilliantly to get to the semi-finals of the World Cup, only to lose to Japan by way of a horrible own goal in stoppage time. The ending was a shocker, but the team was magnificent to watch throughout the tournament.

Women’s football is the fastest-growing sport in Britain and when the England captain, Steph Houghton, said after the match, “We want to be role models and hopefully girls are inspired to get to the World Cup and start playing at a younger age,” you can only salute her and imagine the impact that the players’ efforts will have had.

It’s not just in terms of their skill on the pitch that the Lionesses roar louder than their male counterparts north or south of the Border. Two of the England team are openly gay and at the World Cup there have been 17 openly gay or bisexual players. It’s quite the contrast when you compare it to men’s football. There are no openly gay players in the Premiership. As far as I’m aware, there are none in Scotland either. England’s Lionesses are leading the way and I’m happily cheering them onwards.

Buckie fit for the palace?

EVERY time I’ve poured the last drops of a no longer drinkable bottle of wine into a tomato sauce, I’ve heard in my mind some bossy cookery type saying, ‘If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.’ So what are we to make of the news that Michelin-starred chef Martin Blunos has written a whole load of recipes that use Buckfast as an ingredient? I’m not talking two slices of square sausage on a well-fired roll washed down with a big swig of wreck-the-hoose juice, Blunos is proposing wine-flavoured pheasant pasties as well as a dessert called Nicky-Buckie-Glory. Frankly, I actually feel frightened.