The right to bare arms

I recall reading an interview with actor Richard E Grant, in which he explained why he was leaving California. Although living in Hollywood at the height of his fame – in a state warm enough to grow oranges – he moved back to the UK because he “missed the grey skies”.

I suppose relentless sunshine might get a bit monotonous but, having lived my whole life in England, I wouldn’t know. I’m one of those freckly people who burns at the sight of the sun and although I love swimming in the sea at Appley, it has to be exceptionally hot for me to twang on my cossie and take the plunge.

Nonetheless, after months of mild rainy days and the two-pronged cold snappery of the ‘Beast from the East‘, I’m more than ready to shed my winter coat. I can’t remember what it is like to be fully naked; I feel like I’ve been stitched into my combinations for weeks – “winter drawers on” as the old saying goes. I’ve taken to wearing two coats; an outer woollen one and a cosy feathered-filled quilted number underneath which I refer to as my Robert Down(e)y jacket. My hands look like they’re auditioning for a revival of Steptoe and Son, so wedded are they to fingerless mittens.

And it’s not just me. An avid people-watcher always on the lookout for candidates for Wight Catwalk, my street style blog, all I’ve seen for weeks is people hunkered up in animal-patterned fleeces or Helly Hensen-style anoraks, depending on taste or class. Everyone seems to be expectantly waiting for spring; tantalising glimpses of which can been seen in yellow-headed daffodils and tiny lambs on Ashey Down.

Now, I’m no climate change denier; global warming is probably on its way and we’ll all succumb to its drought-bringing properties. However, imagine what it could be like on the Isle of Wight if, instead of a few scorchingly hot days in mid-June, we had a more Mediterranean climate. Instead of being Tracy Two-Coats, I could merely decide on what gauge of cardigan to shrug on. The streets would be full of smiling people, turning their happy faces towards the vitamin-enriching sun, instead of a few grey-faced smokers huddled in doorways out of the drizzle.

Maybe people would use their cars less, enjoying instead a clement walk to the shops or work. We’d casually meet our friends and make new ones as we sauntered about, rather than scowling at each other over our steering wheels. A fantasy land, with pavement cafes patronised by lightly-dressed folks perusing the County Press, sipping frothy coffee and raising their hats to passers-by.

I have relatives who spend the early months of the year thawing in the heat of southern Europe, presumably partially subsidised by their winter fuel allowance. As I get older I find the idea increasingly attractive. Perhaps this coming December will find me somewhere sunny; after all, is it too much to ask to have the right to bare arms?

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 6 April 2018.

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