Not-so-Grey Britain: Unreal, VERY pleasant ….. but I did get caught out.

What’s gone wrong with the weather?!?!  It’s fabulous!!!!  Cloudless blue sky.  Temperatures in the mid 20s.  From Tuesday afternoon, through the weekend and it’s still cloudless sky on Monday – 3 October!!!!.  It’s only a couple of degrees cooler than on Rhodes and the forecast there was for showers over the weekend.  The hottest week in Autumn on record!!!!!.

Sorry, that’s the end of the exclamation marks.  I’m in danger of wearing out the key.

However, having spent much of the summer in Greece, warm as it is at the end of September/early October in the UK with fairly low-angled sun there is no danger of getting sunburnt

But I did get caught out.  And quite badly.

I realised on Wednesday, at the end of a day working in the garden, that I was getting dehydrated.  I realised I needed to start chucking water down my neck (on the inside).  Thursday and again I was working in the garden all day and preparing to rebuild part of the stone terracing in the vegetable garden, but stopping now and again to have a drink.

Friday and I finished digging out the footings for the section of stone wall I was rebuilding, walked down to the supermarket and back, then did a 2½ hour walk across the mountain to the satisfyingly difficult to pronounce Hafodyrynys with a friend, did some more preparation for the wall-rebuild including pressure-washing the stones, and then walked the half hour to the pub for a pint. About 20 kms in all.  I drank a litre-bottle of cold water on the walk and had a couple of pints of beer but I should have seen the warning signs.  Sorry to be so crude, but it’s an important point, I didn’t need to pee much all day and, because this was Autumn in the UK, I didn’t monitor the colour when I did.   When walking in the mountains in the heat of a Greek summer it’s essential to do this in order to check for the onset of dehydration.  The fact that there is a breeze means you aren’t conscious of sweating much but the moisture is being stripped out of your body quite rapidly.

So on Saturday I got up ready for action.  I was going to rebuild the section of wall I had prepared.  I should explain that some of the stones I’m relaying are quite large.  I had to pick them up, carry them to somewhere in the garden to pressure-wash them, carry them back and then place them in position on a base of freshly poured concrete. I had estimated that some of the stones weighed about 60 kgs so I thought I would check.  I took the bathroom scales down the garden and weighed one of them.  It was 56 kgs so, like most people I obviously exaggerate for effect.   I was not only humping these stones around but also buckets of concrete from the mixer.  I wanted to do it all in one go so the footings were one piece, increasing the likelihood that they wouldn’t crack and sink again.  The mixer was going for 7 hours and all that time I didn’t stop.  No food and only one small drink.  No wonder by the end of the day I felt like I had been beaten up.  My whole body ached.

Sunday and I had planned to take advantage of the fabulous weather and walk up the ridge to Abergavenny.  The good weather was forecast to break on Tuesday.  In order to spur me on and not chicken out from the walk I had arranged to do it with a friend.  We set out at 10.15 and did the walk in reasonably good time with only one brief stop, 4½ hours for the 22 kms.

To be honest, by the end of the walk I was in a bad way.  I had no interest in eating anything. I forced down a salad as I thought I should eat something but I didn’t enjoy any of it.  I didn’t want to drink anything but iced water. I tried a pint of beer but couldn’t finish it and switched to a fruit drink.   My legs were like jelly.

What happened?  Not sure really.  I guess a few things but homing in on a couple of probabilities.  Fairly certainly dehydration.  What small amount I was peeing was dark orange, a bad sign.  Probably also a touch of heat exhaustion.  The sun was not that strong but I had been working hard out in the full sun for 5 days and especially hard for the last 3.  And basic muscle fatigue.  I know I can walk the distances I covered on Friday and Sunday without much trouble but carrying large lumps of stone and buckets of concrete around for a day is something my body isn’t used to.  I can pick up and carry the large stones but am conscious of being close to my limits each time.

It has been great that I have been around for the 2011 summer in Grey Britain. I was still here for the great weather in April and back at the end of September.  I wouldn’t have missed it, it complemented the rest of the summer in Greece very well.  The rest of the so-called 2011 summer in the UK doesn’t bear thinking about.

The weather in Greece was particularly good this year.  I was over there for the 3 weeks on either side of the solstice when the sun is at its strongest and walking in the mountains every day.  But it’s maddening that the only problem I have is in October in Grey Britain!!!!!  (sorry, I’m hitting the exclamation marks again).  Lesson?  Don’t underestimate dehydration and heat exhaustion even in the UK.  In Greece it’s a real danger all the time so I monitor it very carefully.  Back here I carelessly and arrogantly …. and wrongly …. assumed I would be fine.

I have always pushed the limits.  This time I went too far.  Trying to cram too much into an Indian Summer in Grey Britain.

16.00 on Monday and the Indian Summer has just ended.  Cloud drifted across the sky in the strong wind in less than 10 minutes.  Temperatures tomorrow down from mid 20s to 15.  Rain tomorrow evening.  Back to Grey Britain.

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