Heat has transfiguring powers and metamorphic effects. Especially on those usually ensconced in rural Northumberland, where one must huddle on the Aga to read the paper in the middle of August. Temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius, therefore, can bring forth a sort of madness, a hazy delirium that blurs edges and has an otherworldly quality. It was in this other world that we spent two weeks.
A fortnight of fairytale castles, princesses and knights. A land where people are fearless and unafraid of death (yet frightened of toads, especially those going by the name of Alan- perhaps because they could turn out to be princes when kissed). Everyone adopts an adventurous streak, climbing out of windows for the perfect photographic image and hurling their bodies about when very close to cliff edges. They are generally a 'bit vigilante', in keeping with the barbarous medieval atmosphere that seeps from the surroundings.
The heat distorts, and renders what would usually be considered insane when in the earthly world entirely right and proper and wholly unremarkable. Fish-shaped soap dishes are used as ashtrays. Ice cream is laced with lavender, violets and rose petals. Stalactites and stalegmites resemble cauliflowers and mushrooms, flourishing and blossoming in underground caves before our very eyes. Concerts of experimental harp pieces, complete with vocally simulated woodland noises and sounds of the sea, are played in town churches of an evening, to a meagre audience of chic white-haired ladies and violently blaspheming teenage boys. Characters 'say what they like, when they like, then they eat it', not stopping until they sleep. Others use the time of slumber to exercise their vocal chords, moaning, groaning and conversing in their dreams, oblivious to the excitement of thunderstorms that crash open doors and windows, spraying warm rain. Seth Lakeman plays on a loop, adding to the sense of inescapable insanity.
Calculating angles in such heat becomes an impossibility, yet must be attempted in order to survive. Desserts must be divided equally. Straw hats must be mathematically cocked to specific degrees to achieve that London wide-boy look. Verticle hills must be climbed by legs with metal cores and arthritic feet, with only carefully gauged angles making the experience a pain-free one.
After being so steeped in this magical land anything and everything becomes an adventure. Even going to Burger King for a feast of fries and veggie burgers at 10pm. Wonder at how something so tastless can be so delicious! Behold the transforming effects of ketchup! We cross the stormy seas to a surreal place of salt, tasty greasiness and heart attacks; a departure lounge-style service station with Star Trek toilets and blatant falsehoods emblazoned on enormous signs - '24 Hour Service'. Deserted expanses of white with multi-coloured wiggles on the ceiling do nothing to alleviate our delirium, but rather add to the dreaminess of our travels as we drive on through the night, speaking inanities mindlessly. An odd adventure granted, but an adventure nonetheless. Such is the effect of heat on unaccustomed souls.