Weather might be chilly ... but I’m cool
Spring is in the air in Beijing. The biting cold of winter is over and, although the night air is still chilly, it’s evident that warmer weather is on the way.
What a contrast to my own country, the United Kingdom, which has just lived through a hellish, snowy winter and is still enduring icy cold weather.
Having had almost two years to compare the climates of northern China and northern England, I have to say that China wins handsdown.
Yes, it’s extremely cold here in the winter but it’s also invariably dry and sun- ny, and that can be an incredible mood enhancer.
Britain’s climate is notoriously unpredictable. We can never be sure what the Atlantic or Europe — even the North Pole and Siberia — will decide to throw at our little islands.
I’ve often spent a full day fishing at a local lake and over eight hours experienced every type of weather you can imagine — rain, wind, sun, sleet ... you name it.
Practically everyone who lives in the UK is obsessed with the weather. It’s so unpredictable, you’re almost guaranteed a surprise. On a sunny summer’s day you might decide to invite friends to a barbecue the next day, only to have your plans destroyed by storm clouds and an icy downpour. Then there are the many dark, overcast days which seem to sap the joy from your soul and cast a gloomy shadow over life in general.
Of course, the climate has helped shaped the British character, for better or worse, and the same must be true for China.
Here — in Beijing at least — it’s easy to predict the weather. So reliable is the climate that there are specific days when the heating will be switched on for winter and switched off for spring and summer.
Even on the coldest days of winter, the sun can be shining and people will be out in the park doing their square dancing, playing instruments, hugging trees and generally living life to the full. No doubt spending some time outdoors is an essential part of life when home is a cramped apartment in a tower block.
Then there’s the blowtorch blast of summer, which some of my fellow expatriates find uncomfortable. Personally, I love it. The quilted coats of winter — like sleeping bags with buttons — give way to shorts and lightweight clothing. Women use umbrellas as parasols — even while riding bikes — and the mood is generally upbeat. True, there can be torrential rain but it’s seldom severe enough to dampen the spirits of a Brit.
The season of baking days and humid nights? Bring it on. When you’ve grown up with the type of climate I’ve been used to, you can take whatever nature has in store for you.
Against a majestic backdrop of snow-peaked mountains, a black-necked crane stands in solitary splendor in a nature reserve in Nyingchi city, the Tibet autonomous region, on Saturday.