"Lawks, it's five to seven. Is he still in the you-know-what?" Yes madam, I am: in a very square, windowless, Small Tiled Room of Ablutions, in an apartment on an island in Stockholm, Sweden. On Wednesday 13th August, which as you now know is Day 13991. Now please, madam, be patient.
The room is not quite six feet square, and is home to the shower, toilet, wash-basin, and a front-loading washing-machine. It also boasts a formidably powerful extractor-fan in the ceiling: I've had very high hair while living in Stockholm.
Time to have a shower. Every day at this point, I marvel at the sophistication of Swedish plumbing. During my twice-extended stay here, I have (or will have) experienced something like 19 different shower-rooms: some in hotels, others at the homes of friends and colleagues; all of them sublime. Immaculately sealed, well-ventilated and perfectly plumbed. Be warned by me, if you're British and you spend any significant periods in Sweden, your subsequent ablutions in the Old Country will be one long sigh of disappointment.
Okay, the water's turned on, and aaahh, it's instantly the right temperature: none of that cringing from foot to foot in a corner of the cubicle, 'waiting for the hot', a feeling we shower-users in Britain know so well. Oh what martyrs we are to the inappropriate deluge!
Come to think of it, we British (to take a handy example) have a very queer relationship with water, considering we have it in such abundance.
I mean, think about this: on any rainy day in Britain, you'll see people scurrying about their business with faces screwed up tightly, as if they were having an Elastoplast ripped off a hairy wound. Why do they do this?
It must be conditioning, plain and simple. From the cradle we're encouraged to think of rain as a Nasty Thing: the damper on outdoor events, bane of the back-yard washing-line, cruel joke hanging over school holidays; we hear the loaded language of the TV weather-person ("...more bad weather on the way", "...won't escape the rain unfortunately", "...with just a faint risk of drizzle"); the media tells us to 'brace ourselves' for a bout of 'severe weather'; organisers of outdoor events are said to be 'braving' the elements; we see our parents and role-models wincing and flinching under the weight of all those tiny droplets; ouch, yes, that does look painful.
I blame urbanisation. Speaking without any relevant data or references at my elbow to back me up (a typical stance!), I reckon that after the Industrial Revolution and the migration of most of us into the swelling towns and cities, that's when we all started to view rain very differently. Until then we'd known it as a necessary part of existence: irrigating, regulating temperature, replenishing the wells, washing away waste materials and so on. When we started waking up in cities and towns, rain became the stuff that trickles coldly down the collar of our utterly-impractical urban garments, and emphasises the ugliness of our worst architecture.
How absurd, adopting such a combative attitude to the climate of our country.
What a waste, to spend so much of a lifetime in what amounts to self-generated misery!
It's rainfall in Britain; it's not a Biblical plague of flies. So the outdoor event has to be rescheduled; so the washing will take longer to dry; so you have to spend some of the holidays indoors; not really life-shattering stuff, is it? Maybe it seems so to you, in which case I'd suggest you do actually need to get out more.
And if you're lucky, it might be raining. Feel it.