• Elliot Harper

The Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas: Winter

“Winter is Coming”

- Jon Snow


Winter in Houston is a strange animal. I know I’ve talked about the weather already in this blog, but as a typical Brit, it fascinates me. In that previous blog, I mentioned how things can change rapidly and that’s because we are Sub-Tropical. That basically means that we are close enough to the equator that we get the heat most of the year-round. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get cold during the winter, or even that the season falls at a different time of the year. The city is in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’s still subjected to the same seasons as England – it's just that the winter isn’t a soul-destroying slog through the punishing dark at near-zero temperatures.

Maybe I’ve become overly Texas-ised, but I genuinely don’t miss the English winters. They are brutal (or at least I remember them being brutal, but they do seem to get more apocalyptic with each passing year – memory is a funny thing.) No wonder I used to drink when I lived back home! What else can you do in the months of January and February except drink?! For one, it keeps you warm, for another, at least it distracts you from those ferocious, biting winds. I also love how everyone (including me) is always surprised when winter hits, as though we didn’t have all year to prepare for it. I guess global warming might change all that in a few decades. The winters may become milder and the summers ridiculously hot (everyone in England needs to get ceiling fans by the way – amazing things) but only time will tell if that comes to pass. (Just to clarify, I’m no “climate change denier” despite the vagueness of my last comments, I wholeheartedly believe in it, but I also allow myself some deluded hope every now and then.)

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. I’m not here to talk about the terrible winters in England but the mild, warmer winters of Southern Texas! It would be fair to say that you can pretty much get a whole year’s worth of weather in one day in Houston. Take any typical January day like this one. Here I sit, in my tired old grey Havana flip flops, my sweat shorts and a vest (tanks for you lot over here) with a ten quid pair of scratched Van’s sunglasses perched on my nose and a cup of tea in my hand. I’m in the back garden on a small patch of concrete slabs that we have outside the backdoor (the rest is fairly wild garden – so I guess the previous owners started to pave parts of it and then just thought, forget it.) I’m sitting on one chair while using the other to put my feet up. It’s nearly midday, and the temperature has steadily climbed from the low digits Celsius/low 30’s Fahrenheit at 6:30 am to a pleasant 20 Celsius/70 Fahrenheit.

I’ll let that sink in for you guys in England who are all wrapped up in hats and gloves. That’s a double-digit shift! It’s so pleasant that I’ve got my bare feet out! Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty chilly first thing in the morning when I let the dogs out for a piss, but that’s a distant memory right now. This is more like a summer’s day in England (unless it’s one of those days when there’s a “surprise” heatwave – you know the one, it happens every year.) We’ve marched through winter, passed autumn and spring at speed and settled into summer all in the space of a few hours and it’s fucking wonderful.

I close my eyes and let the sun gently warm my face. Right now, life is good. That 20 degrees feels delightful and is light years away from the humid, punishing heat of the summer. This is a great time to be in Houston. I’m about to sigh in pleasure when I feel the light dim somewhat underneath my eyelids. I blink my eyes open to see that a rogue cloud has spoiled the bright blue sky and is blocking out the sun. The temperature reacts accordingly and drops by a few degrees, and I nearly, but not quite, shiver. That’s the other thing with living in Houston. The sun is always warm, but if the sky is overcast, it can drop the temperature right down. It’s even worse if there’s some wind. That’s when things can get genuinely cold. Luckily for me, that isn’t happening at the moment, and the cloud quickly floats away and brings the sun back out to warm my smug face.

The next few hours are mostly spent in between this spot and the computer in the office in the house. I write a little and then head back outside for some sun with the dogs. Life is pretty good, so I can’t complain, although I usually still do, but that’s just the way I am. This final time, I’m sitting as before, but we are now approaching the danger zone. It’s nearly 4 pm, and the temperature is starting to move again. Spring has gone and Autumn is passing. I glance up to the sky to see that there are more than a few clouds swirling around in the sky. They move fast, as though they have urgent business somewhere else. Like the typical (stubborn) Brit that I am, I decide to soldier on. I’ll stay out here as long as possible in my shorts and flip flops and damn the consequences. I close my eyes and soak up as much of the heat as I can.

At first, it’s only for a few seconds. The feeling of warmth on my face reduces for a moment and then returns, but slowly those periods of dark expand, and then I feel a dreaded breeze on my toes. I blink my eyes open to see a dirty, great big cloud billowing in front of the sun. It seems to leer down on me. It knows that it's ruining my day and I’m powerless to stop it. I sigh and pull my shades off just as the wind inexplicably picks up. Sat here in my vest and shorts, bare toes stood to attention, a true chill seeps into my bones, and I finally shiver. I know I’ve gone soft since leaving the north of England, but I’m not stupid, I won’t stay out here if it gets too cold! I check my phone and see that the temperature has swung again. We are now hurtling towards the low teens with single digits insight.

It’s over, and I know it — this time I really do sigh. Today’s winter is fast approaching, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I collect myself, rearrange the chairs back into their usual place and call Hank to follow me inside. He doesn’t need asking twice, which confirms it; it really is getting cold again – he’s Texan born and bred, I’ve no idea how he will cope if we ever take him away from the warmth of Houston. I quickly make my way inside with only the briefest of backward glances. I’d be more disappointed, but I know for sure that at midday tomorrow the summer will return, and I can get my flip flops out once again.

That was a tale of a Yorkshireman living in Texas.

A bloke with a ginger beard who writes.



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