Summer in Pakistan is hot. Also, the Pope is a Catholic.
Pretty obvious, I know. Yet the heat and the sheer fierceness of the sun when it beats down on Pakistan comes as a surprise to anyone who grew up in the UK. Over there the sun manages, somehow, to seem rather weak and puny – in the words of Douglas Adams, “Several billion trillion tons of superhot exploding hydrogen nuclei rose slowly above the horizon and managed to look small, cold and slightly damp”. In Pakistan, those same tons of superhot exploding hydrogen nuclei look like, well, like several billion trillion tons of superhot exploding hydrogen nuclei. You walk out of your house in May and the sun hits you – physically assaults you – on the head like a mugger waiting outside your gate with a truncheon in his hand.
This has a number of unexpected effects. I frequently leave my sunglasses on the dashboard when I park the car, only to burn myself, often quite seriously, on the bridge of the nose when I come to put them on again. Seatbelts are so hot they burn my kids (so we sometimes do without them; everyone else does anyway).
And then there are swings.
We take our kids swimming pretty regularly during the summer months. Last week one of them hopped out of the pool and ran over to the small playground nearby. She jumped onto the swings with an expression of glee. This expression rapidly changed into one of surprise, then one of anguish. A sizzling sound, such as you get when you chuck a couple of sausages into a hot frying pan, arose. With a yelp she leaped up again, sprinted back to the pool, and jumped in, whereupon clouds of steam arose from her scorched thighs. I checked to see what had happened and realised that the seat of the swing – constructed, with a palpable lack of foresight, out of metal – was hot enough to fry an egg. Same for the see-saw. Anyone wanting to rustle up a quick breakfast could have saved the bother of purchasing a frying pan and simply cracked an egg on the top of the slide; by the time it reached the bottom it would have been nicely cooked.
Goodness knows how we’ll cope if we ever return to the UK.