The Bard of Avon truly said that “summer’s lease hath all too short a date” in sonnet number 18.
On Sunday, I found myself in Brighton in a heat wave (neither of which came as a surprise as I had journeyed in a purposive manner to the south coast and the heat had been forecast by the Met Office: I merely used the verb “to find” in a futile attempt to leaven my leaden prose) – despite the best efforts of London underground to seal Victoria station off from the rest of the city. Whilst in Brighton, I enjoyed a rather sparsely attended gig by the Esterházy Chamber Choir entitled Summer Romance followed by a sun-drenched picnic in Preston Park. Yesterday, summer continued with the temperature and humidity in Sawston soaring and trains in the east delayed by the wrong sort of heat on the line (the catenaries in this case) for the first time in 2011.
Today, the lease expired in spectacular fashion – thunderbolts and lightning galore reminding those d’un certain âge of Bohemia and the persecuted populariser of the heliocentric universe who so kindly contributed our title.
Unlike the recent heat, the Met Office did not forecast today’s thunderstorms – well, not until after the event and as a professional in the field of divination, I can assure you working ex-post makes it much easier. As a consequence, I went out on my bicycle well-prepared for heavy rain but not for electric death to descend from the heavens. To be honest, beyond an up-to-date will and recent confession, I’m not sure there is much the cyclist can do to prepare for a lightning strike. In this field, the car is definitely the superior form of transport providing, as it does, a Faraday Cage which keeps the charge away from the user. The inch of insulation which the rubber of my tyres offers (and even the 3 layers of Kevlar contained within) would, I fear, do little to dissuade an errant bolt from selecting me and my steed as a viable route to earth. Back in my schooldays, a simple silk net was sufficient to provide the Faraday Cage effect – but I will admit that this was challenged with little more than the static generated from a polythene rod rubbed with some fur (real or faux I never asked). I somehow doubt that a silk net would protect me from the fury unleashed by a cumulonimbus in its pomp.
This made for a nervous journey home from Cambridge. Luck, or more likely random happenstance, was my friend. I had a stop-off to make on my return journey and reached that temporary sanctuary just as the first thunder shook the skies over Cambridge. By the time I came to depart, the vanguard of the storm had passed and I was granted just enough time to return home before its full force arrived. And what a storm it was! Even without the electric content I was jolly glad not to be caught outside during it – being British I have been drenched before and will, no doubt, be again (unless carried off rather suddenly to my eternal reward) but it is always very pleasing to dodge that particular bullet. It somehow puts a positive spin on the whole day which is, of course, the same spin as would be offered by two electrons – though I never find a Cooper Pair quite as satisfying somehow. On the plus side (something an electron would find rather attractive), portable super-conduction might one day protect the cyclist from an unwanted discharge (and lightning strikes!).