This morning I almost wept. Why? Because it was hot - baking hot, in fact. I stood still for a moment, perplexed and mildly agitated that someone (myself) was going to put me through another summer. The whole thing felt about as fun as open heart surgery.
But I'm going to do things differently this time. Can I tell you what I'm not going to do? I'm not going to turn this column into a series of depressing observations about the heat, and/or lengthy descriptions of just how awful the whole thing is. Yes it's hot. Yes it's utterly miserable, but hey ho, I'm still here, you're still here, it's still here … and we are all just fine.
Point made, case closed; or so you would think. The problem is, fast-forward an hour or so and we are unexpectedly cold. In fact, we're freezing, and the hope of talking about some nice new topic disappears, drowned out by a whole new set of frigid grimaces revolving around air conditioning. I suppose it's a good thing we are conditioned to forget pain, to romanticise it; like running, or childbirth (so I hear), because if we truly remembered the sheer horror of summer we would never ever do it again.
Having said that, what I am going to do in my newly arrived, altogether more positive state is advise you how to deal with it, how to beat it.
The trouble with most summer outfits is that they're products of necessity, not of enjoyment or of taste. We choose something that will cause the least amount of damage rather than something we think will look good, which doesn't necessarily need to be the case. While there is no doubt when the mercury climbs above 40°C we need functional clothing, there are still ways in which to appear stylish.
Start with good underwear. A strapless bra is a good investment. It can go under hot-weather staples such as camisoles and summer dresses, widening our options. Next stop should be our choice of fabric. It's all about natural fibres - unless you are running a marathon, in which case, certain synthetic fabric combinations are used to get rid of sweat. Cotton breathes better than anything else, and finer threads with a looser weave will all help add to a textile's breathability. You need to allow air to circulate in order to stay cool, so remember to check the tag: synthetic fibres are typically non-breathable, trapping the hot air inside, so avoid them at all cost.
Ironically, people tend to think less is more when it comes to beating the heat, which is not entirely true. In fact, full trouser legs and covered sleeves lend themselves to UV protection, especially if in a light colour, and can be more cooling than a T-shirt and shorts in the right conditions. Light colours will reflect the sunlight where darker shades will absorb, keeping your clothes themselves from growing warmer. Be careful about lightweight fabrics as they can be misleading; while silk may feel light on the skin, if you're likely to sweat it will show. Linen can be another trap due to terrible creasing caused by humidity.
Avoid accessories that might weigh you down, especially around your wrists and neck for the same reasons you wouldn't wear a scarf.
In short, take a good look at the local women from hotter climates who have mastered the art, and know that, despite the odds, the more we wear the less direct sunlight we soak up. So long as it can be done with light and breathable fabrics, we will be an altogether happier bunch; perhaps even leaving some room for some rather more stimulating conversation.