The axial tilt of the planet know as "Earth" has caused solar energy to fall on central Europe at a more direct angle. Inland humidity has reached 64%. The incessant heat has begun to make its effects felt on the helpless. Denizens of this climactic zone have been driven to ever-increasing extremes of fashion in the quest for relief from the oppressive temperatures, known as "summer".
In the check-in queue for a certain budget airline at Prague airport, weary travellers bask in the air-conditioned cool, little caring that the single trainee on the desk means it will be over an hour before they can finish. At least they no longer have to move (much).
One man in particular appears to have caught the spirit of the season by its neck and wrung it like a soggy flannel. Proud and tall he stands, skinny of limb and knobbly of joint. His dark hair is neatly combed over his bald spot, his beard is full and lush. His glasses are large, with thick dark frames. His feet are in dark dress shoes polished to a mirror shine; the hems of his white socks precisely bisect his legs at mid-calf height. From there, the blinding white of pipe-cleaner legs is only enhanced by his luxuriant body hair.
His black cotton thigh-length shorts are neat and perfectly pressed, with knife-edge creases down the front. There are unmistakable signs that this appearance is the product of planning and effort. Above, despite his presence in a public airport where temperatures are chilly enough to require jackets, his checked cotton short-sleeved shirt is buttoned only to the naval. The air-conditioned breeze whispers over his body with predictable effects on parts of his anatomy most would prefer to ignore.
Presumably for the visual delight of all others in the immediate area, his shirt falls open in starched folds about his torso, revealing the glorious round fullness of his firm, high beachball belly. It bears a peculiar V-shaped burn in glowing red streaked in white. It mesmerises. Members of the queue consider setting up a sweepstakes on whether his waters will break before he reaches passport control.
'Tis true that clothes do not make the man: they are mere packaging. But packaging bears labels, and in this case a hazard warning that states, "Beware, English abroad". Sigh. Y'know, my flatmates, they are American. And the only Americans that seem to make it over here are young, lithe college kids in trendy sportswear. The Brits, by contrast, look as if their ideas are derived from the "before" segment of "What not to Wear" and then customised with cast-offs from a charnel house. So the comparisons are becoming painful.
Anyhow, I'm no fashionista. I wear funny red shoes. But if this is what it's coming to, can I become a cultural refugee? Or is there a way to lobby easyjet to stock muumuus and gags for such passengers? Because between this and the drunken compliments on how fluent my English is for a "Czech bird", I'm beginning to get a little testy towards my fellow countrymen. Now, where did I put my sharp stick?