Afternoon temperatures across SA are hovering at the 35ºC mark. February is always a sultry month here; we associate it with tantrums in parliament, increased stress for farmers, and red-hot panic in company offices as the financial year-end approaches.

Driving around in my stifling car, cursing the broken air conditioning, I find some respite in an old-school CD audiobook. Michael Palin’s Erebus: The Story of a Ship is an account of the nautical adventures of HMS Erebus, which was employed for polar exploration in both Arctic and Antarctic seas. The conditions Palin describes — frigid seas, icebergs and snow — were miserable for the poor old sailors, but seem blissfully cool to an overheating South African...

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