Back in the 1990s I read many books by Carl Hiaasen, crime novels set in Florida. I enjoyed them enormously, and my recollections of them have merged into an indistinct mix of plotlines, characters and memorable phrases. The memory that comes to mind most often is of a character who always parks in the shade. It’s his number one rule in life and becomes a motif throughout whatever book it was.
As I have noted before in various posts (including this one) I would like my Kindle to have every book that I have ever read, to help find the exact location of something like this and allow me to quote, immediately, character and source. In fact, Google has just found it for me, with a search for [Carl Hiaasen “always park in the shade”]. On page 198 of “Skin Tight”, in the Google Books search results, it says: “George Graveline had a motto by which he faithfully lived: always park in the shade.” This has been a catchphrase of mine since first reading it 20 years ago, and now I won’t have to go searching through my paperbacks to find out who said it. It was George Graveline, in “Skin Tight”.
It came to mind yet again yesterday afternoon when I got into the car to pick up my son from school. It was a warm day (25 degrees centigrade according to the BBC website) but the temperature reading on the dashboard was 39 degrees. Even with the air conditioning on, it had only reduced down to 31 degrees by the time I had driven the five miles or so to collect him. There are very few places here in West London where you can park in the shade all day. Even on the other side of the road from us (the south side), where the houses offer shade in the mornings, the sun still hits the windscreen during the afternoon.
The highest temperature that we have ever seen on the dashboard thermometer was 49 degrees centigrade, in Italy two summers ago. Almost everywhere we stayed had limited shaded parking. We stayed in a hotel near Lucca that had a large car park out the back. There wasn’t a single space that offered shade in the middle of the afternoon. There were two spaces out front that did, just beside the hotel reception, but neither was available. (Coincidentally, the two cars parked there had German number plates.) On the way to Lucca we had stopped in Pisa just before lunch-time. My memories of the town were of how difficult it was to park anywhere near the Leaning Tower and Duomo but it turned out there was public parking not far away, all of it exposed to the midday sun. We returned to our car around 2pm to find that the sun had baked the dashboard to its record 49 degrees. If you can, always park in the shade, just like George Graveline, but you may end up a long way from where you want to be.