Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Distracted by Sarahan dust.

Yesterday I drafted a reflective post about writers and book groups - but today I've been distracted by the Sarahan dust. (There's a sentence you won't see repeated too often!)

For those of you living far away English towns and villages, I'll tell you what's happening. Apparently it's natural for dust from the Sahara to be blown high into the atmosphere and fall almost anywhere in the world. It replenishes minerals in the Atlantic Ocean, and even performs some vital function that I don't understand in the Amazon rainforest. (A salutary reminder of the interconnectedness of our weather systems, and how vital it is that we think in global terms, meteorologically.)

Well, the wind is now blowing northerly, bringing with it not only dust from the desert but also pollution particles from the continent (those pesky French who insist on driving their cars, I presume), and making the air quality in the south of England - well, unpleasant. I can taste it. If I try to hurry I wheeze more than I ought. Those with lung or heart conditions are instructed to stay indoors; the pollution is serious enough to cause breathing problems.

I'm not bothered about dust on the cars, or on the windows. But my concern today is for people who are not simply uncomfortable, but whose lives are affected by it, such as:

Postmen with asthma - who may struggle to breathe but still lug bags of letters to our doors.

Farmers, busy lambing. Lambing sheds tend to be dusty anyway, with all that straw - today it must be thick with it.

Anyone in construction, who has to cope with brick dust as well and anything blown in from the south.

Teachers, and those on playground duty - who must stand and keep children safe while they play.

Gardeners, tree surgeons, groundsmen at cricket venues getting ready for the summer.

Mothers who have children with asthma. How do you persuade a six-year old that he or she cannot run around because there is dust from the Saraha in the air and it might make them ill? (One mother in particular, with three small boys - one of whom has asthma and might need sitting on to keep him still.)

Anyone I'm not sorry for:

Bankers. Who might get a little light dust on their city suits. It would be great if they could realise that dust falls on all of us. But I don't suppose they will.

Politicians; ditto.


  1. Would you feel sorry for asthmatic bankers whose children also have asthma who are doing essential DIY on their mother's house whilst listening to cricket on the radio and looking after their children?

    1. Anyone who can do all that at once has to be a woman - so maybe a smidgeon of sympathy, except when she's being a banker!

  2. Here it seems the French/German industrial pollution predominates. I can taste sulphur in the air. Agree with you in your sympathy for those affected by it all though.

  3. I know in the grand scheme of things cars are not important but we have... correction, had a black car and now it's sand-beige, including the windows. Someone is going to have to wash it very soon or we won't be able to use it! I wonder if the inside of our lungs are sand-beige too. It's all really unpleasant but it's not a new phenomenon like the scare-mongerers would have us believe. I remember my uncle washing his car one Sunday morning in London in the 1960s after it was covered in the night by Saharan dust. There's nothing new under the sun, even a hazy one!

  4. "dust falls on all of us". Great line. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  5. It must be awful for those people you mentioned who have to work in it. The only time I remember it happening here it was volcanic dust that covered everything.