Temperature & Climate

From Comments under yesterday’s post:

I’m curious about how you feel about Cornwall as regards temperature and climate.
You’re from South Africa via Texas most recently and I think of you as a hot place guy. Does Cornwall feel cold to you? I see someone in shirtsleeves in the 4th photo down and that’s how I “feel” the UK, as a warm-ish place, even in November.

To answer the easy question first: no, Cornwall doesn’t feel cold to me. Remember that I lived in Chicago for over a decade, so I know what “cold” is. It can get quite chilly in Cornwall when the wind blows (which is quite often), but the Gulf Stream stops the wind from the biting cold of, say, those coming in off the North Sea (which are dreadful). The only reason I put on a coat at all is in case it starts to rain; otherwise I’d be walking around if not in shirtsleeves, just a henley or similar long-sleeved tee shirt. When it rains, that’s another story — but then once again, having just come south from Scotland’s freezing rain, Cornwall in the rain is chilly rather than icy. (This may change in January, of course, but sadly I won’t be here to see it.)

Although I used to live in Johannesburg and now live in Texas, I’m not a hot-weather kind of guy. In fact, the only thing* which gets me down about Texas is the heat. Johannesburg has a different kind of heat, of course: even though the daily summer high is around 90-95°F, the relative humidity is 5% — whereas in Texas, a 95°F day generally means 90% humidity, which I frankly find unbearable.

The travel writer Bill Bryson loves it Over Here, by the way. He describes it as a climate that really only requires one type of clothing, which can be worn pretty much all year round (with layers added or subtracted as needed, and a rain jacket and winter coat the only other accessories).

I agree absolutely. Right now, the indoor temperature in the cottage is 68°F, which I find pleasantly cool (and the only reason I’m wearing slippers is that the stone flooring is icy cold underfoot). Outside, the temperature at 10:30am local is about 54°F on its way up to 57°F, and tonight’s low is predicted to be 52°F. When I went out for fish & chips last night, I wore only sweatpants, a henley and a fleece waistcoat called a gilet** (pronounced “jhillay”), and I was quite comfortable.

Actually, I’m a cool weather kind of guy. And if it’s raining and a little chilly, that’s certainly the weather in which I prefer to travel, especially in Britishland and Yurp: the tourists are few and the inclement weather keeps the streets clear of lots of people. When I was in Bath back in sunny August, the place was knee-deep in people — place looked and sounded like a combination of Beijing, Bakersfield and Bucharest at midday — whereas when I went back to Bath a week or so ago, with the seasonal damp and chilly air, the place was comparatively deserted and most accents in the street were Somerset. (And the steak ‘n kidney pies and hot sticky-toffee puddings were all the tastier. Nom nom nom.)

So I’m loving this climate, while I can. In ten days’ time I’ll be exploring the south of France with Longtime Friend and Former Drummer Knob (who lives there), so it’s probably not going to be like this, more’s the pity. But later I’ll be back in Britishland — to be specific, London — in time for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, where apparently it’s going to be one of the coldest winters in memory.

Can’t wait.

*also the lack of scenery in Texas, but that’s not relevant here.

** the gilet is probably the only item of clothing which I’d regard as absolutely indispensable Over Here. It can be worn as an outer garment or under a coat or rainjacket, and it’s one of the few items where one should never skimp on price. On the advice of Mr. Free Market, I paid about $30 for my Jack Pyke, which isn’t regarded as top-of-the-line by the people who know about such things — see here for an example of a “good” one — and I haven’t looked back since.

Come to think of it, when I get back to Texas, I’ll put up a post of essential clothing when traveling in Yurp during the fall and winter.


  1. I too am a cool weather guy, and also a dry air guy. Dry air can make heat more bearable.

    I used to travel all over Europe in the summer, sweating and oozing, and pretending to enjoy it.

    Now it’s October through April only, still too damp, but cool enough to be OK.

    Oddly enough, we still do two weeks every January in Mexico, because wearing flip flops and a swim suit makes their heat and humidity bearable, especially if I’m waist deep in the Pacific, or up in the mountains. Plus, I can go on motorbike tours and not freeze.

    But a 6 month sabbatical, man, I’m still envious. Good for you.

  2. The temperature thing actually fascinates me.

    Here in western Canada we call the ‘gilet’ a ‘vest’, everybody has one, most often a quilted artificial fibre garment. The good ones are double quilted eiderdown, the cheapies are fortrel or some such trash. I have 4, 2 good ones for skiing, 1 cheapie for mucking about and another good one with plenty of pockets for hunting.

    A relatively new phenomenon over here is large active men wearing shorts even in the winter down to about -25C (-13F). I buy quite a bit of stuff off the internet and one of my regular UPS drivers is a guy with calves as big as ham hocks and he tells me he does it to keep from sweating to death, even in winter. A heavy jacket on top, bare legs, I don’t get it myself. Maybe scottish kiltie ancestry.

    1. Yeah, I have a hunting waistcoat as well (with pockets all over the place), and I brought it Over Here for the hunting. But I didn’t want to wear it every day because it makes me look like I’m on my way to a hunt. Not what one wants to look like on Regent Street, after all.

  3. “*also the lack of scenery in Texas, but that’s not relevant here.”

    Living in the Plano/Frisco area of DFW, I could see why you say that. North Central Texas can be boring, scenery wise. Texas has a lot of nice scenery. You just have to drive long distances to get there. East Texas has rolling hills, hardwood forests, and pine forests. The coast has beaches, although the Northern Gulf is not one of the most beautiful bodies of water. Around the Hill Country, there are a number of nice locations. Big Bend is a country in itself. The West Texas mountains have beautiful vistas and spectacular sunsets. The High Plains in the Panhandle has Palo Duro Canyon. If you haven’t seen these places, you should go on a Texas BBQ trek and see more of what Texas has to offer.

    1. I’ve driven/ridden I10 and I20 several times and never saw much worth looking at.

      Then again I lived on the left coast at the time and would get up into the mountains around Tahoe with regularity, and go riding through NorCal into Oregon.

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