Saturday, 17 January 2009

Kids ... heat, and clothes

It was dusk and I was sitting on the porch of the little house on the Coast, delighted that my "newly-acquired" 3-year-old daughter, Natasha, had finally accepted me and wormed herself onto my lap for a cuddle.

The day had been humid and hot, 35°C, and I was enjoying the slight drop in temperature as I sat in the warm breeze off the Indian Ocean.

Natasha wormed and squirmed to get comfortable, then settled to look at the enormous moon hanging in the sky.

I was so content as I felt the heat coming off her little body, but we were interrupted from our contemplations by the house girl who insisted on putting a fleece on Natasha. That broke the spell. Natasha fidgeted and squirmed on my lap and would not settle, so I took her indoors, where she immediately divested herself of the fleece.

I went back outside to finish my contemplations and was again joined by Natasha, minus her fleece. She installed herself again on my lap and settled. In two minutes she was asleep.

The house girl again came out and insisted that she put the fleece on the little girl, but I refused to let her, telling her that I would bring her indoors if I thought she felt cold.

We sat, me staring at the Moon, and Natasha dreaming of ... whatever little girls dream of, hopefully something to do with her new Baba Mzungu.

It never gets cold in this spot. Night-time temperatures rarely drop below 22°C, which to me, a Brit, is warm.

But it got me thinking. My significant other, Natasha's mother Liz and her two kids were born and raised in this place, this holiday paradise of white coral sands, palm trees, blue ocean, coral reef and wall-to-wall sunshine. Liz left when she attended boarding school, but came back to her oven of a village.

The two kids had never been subjected to a temperature of less than 20°C in their lives. What would they make of England, even in Summer? Where even in Summer, nights are cool, and in winter, they are in the minuses.

Snow and ice, frost, fog, woolly jumpers and tights, socks, boots, quilted jackets, warm hats, underwear?

Ah yes, underwear.

Ian, who is six, insists on wearing a singlet and pants under his school uniform. The pants I can understand. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, wearing shorts without underpants can be, let us say, revealing to the others in his class. But a singlet, in an area where daytime temperatures are always in the mid 30s?

And when he comes home from school, he strips off and puts on a T-shirt and shorts. No vest, no pants, no socks.

Oh to be a child again.

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