25. How will I manage in such different environments?

IMAG0204The season’s colour palette is in transition from the brightness, particularly greens, of early summer to the pale browns of harvest time, this year we are even blessed with an Indian summer. Fields are full of hay bales and the trees are beginning to lose their chlorophyll pigmentation in preparation for the vibrancy of the autumnal tones. This country is referred to as a ‘green and pleasant land’ and the burgundies, ambers, terracottas and golds of the seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness are my personal favourites. How will 5 months of white, a bluey white, affect my colour perception? IMAG0402Will I need to take bright coloured clothes to counteract this ice world that we’ll be inhabiting? Even the crockery, towels and bedding will be white. I take our colourful kingdom for granted when I’m here but am also very aware of the muted tones in warmer climes where the rainfall is more limited.

I haven’t spent more than 2 weeks at a time in those regions which didn’t allow for the novelty to abate. A recent trip to DSCN1219Finland caused us to reflect on the winter wonderland we encountered; it was stunningly beautiful. This was a territory for which we could have opted with our company but despite not managing to see the Northern Lights (the main purpose of the week) we did feel that Lapland might be an environment to which one had to be adapted in order to cope for several winter months when coupled with the restricted or even absent daylight. With the addition of a profusion of Santas, even after Christmas, loads of children and short ski runs we have decided to avoid it (for now).

mandy carrickI have a distinct picture in my mind of the greens of Scotland, the obvious result of excessive precipitation. I was fortunate enough to be lazing in the infinity pool at The Carrick on Loch Lomond 2 summers ago, in fact I actually had the pool to myself. As I draped my arms over the edge, looking towards the towering summit of Ben Lomond, the foreground was a mass of green, every possible shade of green I could think of. I tried counting how many different tones I could see from that one position and it was impossible. No two leaves of the same tree were identical or if they were the light gave the impression of variety. Are there really 50 shades of grey? There are certainly more than 100 shades of green.

DSCN1191So we will be occupying a white and blue realm initially. I’m being optimistic with the blue but do expect some lovely sunshine as we will be in, allegedly, the sunniest resort in the Alps. We anticipate only skiing on the glorious days as our muscles and joints, particularly knees, wouldn’t be able to cope with every day. On the pistes we should encounter every colour imaginable in the attire of those hurtling down the mountainsides under various degrees of control. The clothing may seem garish at times but does allow for casualties to be easily spotted in the event of something untoward.

The colours of the world relate directly to water, whether as the flamboyant or subtle colours of flowers or greens of leaves and grass from its liquid state in the temperate zones, to the whites and blues of the solid state in the colder climes. The absence of this vital constituent of life also determines the hue of the natural surroundings of the warmer zones. The vivid green patches of grass glaring out from the desert floor as one comes into land in Dubai look totally incongruous. SaharaI didn’t particularly notice at the time but on return from a camel train and overnight stay in the Sahara Desert – absolutely amazing experience – our group of 15 Aussies, Americans and Brits queued up for a refreshing shower alongside some other groups of apparent Europeans. Reflecting later I did wonder how there came to be enough water to cater for this demand, presumably most of the days of the week. Whilst the shower wasn’t a deluge and we were all relatively brief, mostly because we knew others were waiting to get in and the bus was loitering for departure, we must have used a huge proportion of the supply. We will no doubt need to adjust to using less water when we embark on our summer season as we intend to be somewhere warm and consequently drier.DSCN1012

This will apply not just to washing but also drinking. I have had some experience of less than pleasant stomach problems in various locations around Europe so perhaps bottled water will be reluctantly required. Water purification tablets could be used but they do taint the taste. Used bottles of water are becoming the scourge of the planet. There are now alleged to be 5 ‘islands’ the size of the Isle of Wight adrift in the Pacific and Atlantic comprising plastic bottles alone. 30 foot yachts have been built from this detritus to heighten awareness of the ever growing problem. It is an ironic issue in our country where we pay for clean water to flow from our taps only to pay again a not inconsiderable amount for the same product from supermarkets and petrol stations – why?

It will be difficult in non-Western countries, where the water is not of drinkable quality, to avoid buying bottled water and add to these islands or mountains. I was struck by this profusion of plastic on a train trip through northern Morocco where we passed a field which had been harvested leaving short stiff stumps protruding through the soil. It was quite a breezy day and every single stump, of which there must have been hundreds, had a plastic carrier bag attached, billowing in the wind. It really did look like a plastic bag crop. Whoever can devise an effective and profitable means of converting plastic into something useful or degradable will make a fortune. Pity I dropped chemistry when I was 13.

Sept 2014

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