COLUMN: July 11, 2013

I AM not at my best in this relentless heat. And my best is pretty small potatoes anyway, so you can imagine what a sub-par me is like.

This is not to say that the sunshine is entirely unwelcome. It is a relief, for example, to be able to walk the streets unafraid that I might develop a hole in my shoe and subsequently step in a puddle, which would lead me to have to visit a shoe shop and remove my shoe, revealing a hole in my sock.

I am not saying I have a hole in my sock, but if I were having the sort of day in which I developed one in my shoe and stepped in a puddle, I would definitely also have a hole in my sock.

Unfortunately, that is the only example which I can conjure. Heat is for other people – lithe, tanned people, swathed in white linen and sunglasses, and who can eat prawns properly. Heat is not for the likes of me – pale, Irish-looking people who suit jumpers, and who have skin the colour and thickness of uncooked filo pastry. You might as well drop me into the core of a nuclear reactor.

My condition is exacerbated by two factors. The first is that I work in an office in which I am expected to wear a suit. Yes, sometimes I rebel and wear a tweed jacket, but I am not exactly Che Guevara. I cannot turn up for work in my pants – not even on Dress Down Friday – comfortable as that may be. Not after the memo.

The closest I can get to that level of comfort is by opening one more button on my shirt than usual, which does serve to keep me a little cooler, but carries a certain risk, namely that I look as if I am a chunky gold bracelet away from a medallion.

The second factor is that I travel to work on a bus. I do not know if you can imagine the discomfort of a bus in this weather, but try this experiment . . .

Take a large biscuit tin and empty it of biscuits. Put the tin out in the midday sun. After an hour, use a bradawl or drill to pierce two opposite sides of the tin half a dozen times.

Then fill the tin with 56 hamsters and whack the lid back on. Leave for 20 minutes – perhaps you can use this time to eat some of the biscuits you removed, as there’s no way you’re going to want to put them back – then take the lid off.

There will be a rabble, with one hamster wearing glasses and hogging one of the holes. That one is me, desperately trying to breathe some new air.

For, owing to some esoteric newspaper production changes, and the regulation of the local transport authority, I now get the bus at the same time as the last generation to shun deodorants as a dangerous European fancy.

Normally this presents few difficulties, but in the current climate I require a gas mask and shots to get through a bus journey intact.

And even that is not enough.

I was travelling home the other night. The treacly heat was repelling any attempts by the river to introduce a cool breeze, and I boarded the bus coated in a light film of what I can only describe as sweat.

I sat in one of the backward-facing seats, my face slightly glistening.

And another man sat next to me, a younger, tattooed man, part of the Lynx generation. But perhaps he had been off when his class had learnt about personal hygiene as he had the oniony smell of a man who has eschewed a roll-on.

I placed my cheek against the cool window and hoped for a quick death. And then a young woman sat opposite me, speaking on her mobile phone to her mother, I assumed, given the gynaecological frankness of her discussion.

I saw her nose twitch, like that of one of your 56 hamsters, and a look of distaste crossed her face. She had clearly picked up the pungent whiff of Onion Pits.

“Oh, yeah, that reminds me,” she said, looking straight at me. “We need some more deodorant.” Then she stood up and went to sit farther down the bus.

I have never been so insulted in my life, and I have been insulted much more than most people.

If the young woman on the bus is reading this, I have two things to say to her.

One, I have two showers a day at the moment, and shares in Right Guard. You could eat your dinner off me, though I’d very much prefer it if you didn’t, especially if it had just come out of the oven, or had gravy.

And two, you definitely need to get that thing looked at.

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