Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

As I used the motorcycle the day before to go and watch my son in a Track & Field event, and petroleum spirit prices are the highest I have ever seen them, I decide to use the mountain-bike again for my Sunday outing. ‘You are mad’ declares my wife, shaking her head in pity, ‘It’s over thirty degrees out there.’ My daughter chips in with ‘It’s like Lawrence of Arabia crossing Sinai—and you haven’t even got a camel’.

However, I dismiss their talk as idle female chatter, drink plenty of water and set off, with more water in my backpack. My target is Tsukuhara-ko, a large reservoir up in the mountains, which can be reached by using a special cycle road and is usually a pleasant ride. Today there is little wind and the heat haze off the tarmac is fierce, but I reason to myself that it will be cooler among the rice paddies and the irrigation water.

The descent into the valley of the Akashi river is refreshing, but as soon as the route levels out again the heat returns. After I have covered about 8 kilometres, I realize that the womenfolk were right and this is crazy. So I pull into another of my favourite temples, Cho-fuku-ji, and appreciate the wisdom of the The Buddha who advises me on the right kind of activity for a day like today.

The guardians of the temple, the Ni-Oh sama seem to be admonishing me for my folly in venturing out in such conditions.

On my return journey, I take frequent rests and take some more photos with the mobile. One pine tree with a posture problem reminds me of my favourite comedy duo, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

And the hot weather is good for some things anyway.

And just before the uphill push to where we live, I drop by the temple where we rang in the New Year on a freezing cold December 31st, just half a year ago.

As I approach home, another bit of wisdom enters my consciousness, from Noel Coward.

In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire,
to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It's one of those rules that the biggest fools obey,
Because the sun is much too sultry and one must avoid
its ultry-violet ray --
Papalaka-papalaka-papalaka-boo. (Repeat)
Digariga-digariga-digariga-doo. (Repeat)
The natives grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they're obviously, absolutely nuts --

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The Japanese don't care to, the Chinese wouldn't dare to,
Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one,
But Englishmen detest a siesta,
In the Philippines there are lovely screens,
to protect you from the glare,
In the Malay states there are hats like plates,
which the Britishers won't wear,
At twelve noon the natives swoon, and
no further work is done -
But Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

It's such a surprise for the Eastern eyes to see,
That though the British are effete,
they're quite impervious to heat,
When the white man rides, every native hides in glee,
Because the simple creatures hope he will
impale his solar topee on a tree.
Bolyboly-bolyboly-bolyboly-baa. (Repeat)
Habaninny-habaninny-habaninny-haa. (Repeat)
It seems such a shame that when the English claim the earth
That they give rise to such hilarity and mirth -

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The toughest Burmese bandit can never understand it.
In Rangoon the heat of noon is just what the natives shun.
They put their scotch or rye down, and lie down.
In the jungle town where the sun beats down,
to the rage of man or beast,
The English garb of the English sahib merely gets a bit more creased.
In Bangkok, at twelve o'clock, they foam at the mouth and run,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen, go out in the midday sun.
The smallest Malay rabbit deplores this stupid habit.
In Hong Kong, they strike a gong, and fire off a noonday gun.
To reprimand each inmate, who's in late.
In the mangrove swamps where the python romps
there is peace from twelve till two.
Even caribous lie down and snooze, for there's nothing else to do.
In Bengal, to move at all, is seldom if ever done,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Which brings to mind more memories of a certain Yorkshire gas-fitter, who appropriated the title of the ditty for a world tour in 1970. I went to the Newcastle City Hall to see this show. My mother said I was never the same again after that. Not surprising really...