I still remember how anxiously my eyes were glued to the screen in front as Emirates Flight EK007 was about to touch down at Heathrow Terminal 3 early March last year. My anxiety stemmed from all those reports and visuals about a treacherous English and European winter that had extended far beyond February, sending unbearable waves of chill all across the continent. Scouring the screen as the front camera of the gigantic Airbus A380 caught the black tar of the runway right ahead, there was good news: No snow in sight! Minutes later, as I walked down the aerobridge, I could see rays of the early-afternoon London sun slicing in through the glass cladding. The rest of my weeklong stay was pleasant indeed, with the mercury never plunging alarmingly.
This time around, the weather was reassuring. The United Kingdom in June-July is very pleasant, I was told by a few London ‘veterans’ in Dubai. In fact, as a couple of games of the Cricket World Cup 2019 were washed out, there was something else to worry about: Hope my England-Australia Lord’s date on June 25 and the India-West Indies potential cracker at Old Trafford, Manchester, two days later, do not turn out to be damp squibs — literally.
While Lord’s was unalloyed fun, with the sun peeping through a gentle cloud cover through the day, Manchester proved to be quite a scorcher — notwithstanding India making a fillet of the Caribbean team and the day-long party on the stands with an ‘army’ of blue shirts taking over Old Trafford. Not only did Manchester spring a surprise with a sparkling blue sky throughout the match, the sun also turned out to leave a telltale mark on my visage — a truth that was unbeknown to me until I reached the breakfast table at the hotel the next morning. “Good morning Sir, hope you had a good night’s sleep. Your face looks quite rundown … are you OK?” said the lady while serving me a perfectly-done ‘sunny-side-up’ to complement those buttered slices of brown bread on the plate. “Yeah, I did. In fact, I overslept,” was my mumbled response, while trying to keep a straight face, but wondering all the same as to what could have triggered such an observation in the first place. I had the answer barely 15 minutes later. Back in my room, as I looked into the mirror for the first time in the last 12 hours or so, I realised that instead of that tempting array of moisturisers in the bathroom, the hotel could have provided a tube of sunblock!
Bakerloo, I’m told, is the deepest underground line in London’s Tube network and whoever said that climate change is a 'hoax' should travel on the London Underground from Paddington to Charing Cross in late June.
The following day, back in London, it was time to catch Mamma Mia! at Novello Theatre, West End. I jumped into a Bakerloo line train, about ten minutes behind schedule and worried that I would miss some of those wonderful, timeless Abba numbers that the musical was based on. But as the train noisily rolled out of Paddington, I had something else to worry about. The heat inside the carriage was so oppressive that it reminded me of one of those non-air conditioned Kolkata Metro rakes — yes, the city still runs many of those! Bakerloo, I’m told, is the deepest underground line in London’s Tube network and whoever said that climate change is a “hoax” should travel on the London Underground from Paddington to Charing Cross in late June — without his favourite pretzels to munch on!
By the time the train reached Charing Cross, I was left cursing myself for having opted for that beige jacket and not one of my favourite Ts. Inside Novello Theatre too, as I looked around, I found — much to my embarrassment — that I was clearly the odd one out, over-dressed in a jacket and tie, with beads of sweat very gently rolling down my temple, in a further affirmation of a very avoidable wardrobe error. The climate-control devices at the Hilton had actually tricked me into believing that London’s outdoors would be just as pleasant.
It’s not just the British Airways signage at Charing Cross, but there are other reasons to believe that when in London, Dubai is closer than you think — literally!
Follow Sanjib Kumar Das on Twitter: @moumiayush and Instagram: @sanjibshares