November 10

Flickr/mark notari
Flickr/mark notari

Oh, for the dry heat of a New Mexico summer! Or even the swampy mugginess of a mid-Atlantic August. I am simply not prepared for an English winter. It’s only November, and already we’re experiencing what I can only describe as winter humidity. The air is thick with water, building up before dewfall like tingles before a sneeze. Cold that’s rich instead of sharp; heavy instead of brittle; brass instead of tin. The sound of my bike bell quickly dies in its thickness. I am alone in this cold: if I were to show the weather forecast to my British classmates, they would regard it like a crusty textbook. Yes, Shakespeare died in 1616. Yes, the Great War ended in 1918. Yes, you will shiver, and your nose will drip for the next five months. Let’s get on, shall we?

I dream of hot baths. When it’s a damp November in my bones, I envision liquid heat. Forget the warm, soapy bubbles and mood music—give me nearly scalding water that will turn my skin red and raise my core body temperature.

Having only a shower in my room, I’ve taken to other methods. Tea at least three times a day. The Buttery, the Arc, the Graduate Union, the Red Brick Café, the Roost, the Graduate Union, the coin-operated machine in the atrium—I spend my afternoons at tea shops all over Cambridge. Every almost-boiling cup adds another red dot to my heat map of the city.

But this afternoon, I received a late-autumn gift: an hour of warm sunshine, which I used for reading in the garden. I lizarded to the best of my ability—soaking up as much vitamin D as I could from a sun that, this far north, rides side saddle. I realized too late that I should have preserved heat like this months beforehand, stuffing it into jars for when real winter arrives. I read for as long as I could, and then, inevitably, my toes went cold, and I retreated indoors. But now I’ll have a dollop or two of heat to spread on toast, as I drink my tea, wearing all my coats and hats and thick socks.


Reader’s Note: Every day for the next couple of weeks, we’ll be presenting new entries from “Along the River Cam.” Check here for the latest post.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Charlotte Salley is a former assistant editor of the Scholar.


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