You might not realise it if you live elsewhere but for today at least London is about the hottest city on planet earth, not including Paris and err New Delhi. It’s easy for everyone to scoff at the idea that we aren’t living in the hottest place on earth, especially if you happen to live in one of the many hotter places on earth but for today at least London is claiming to be the epicentre of all things summer.
There is a saying that when two Englishmen meet, their talk is of the weather and that is true. It is an easy subject to discuss with strangers, is always variable and everyone has recently had a weather incident happen to them no matter how mundane.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, even our media is always talking about the weather. Not a day goes by without some year, month or day is recorded as being the hottest, coldest, wettest, driest, stormiest moment in our long recorded history of unpredictable if rarely extreme weather.
Summer is never any guarantee of heat or sunshine, winter is never any guarantee of rain, snow or low temperatures and each spring or autumn is always compared with how early or late it is with both the preceding years and the best or worst in history. In fact just last thursday it was officially the most mundane weather ever recorded whilst wearing my brown suede shoes and that my friends is totally official.
Last winter was very mild, no snow in the London area (though quite a bit elsewhere), spring was mild and foreign guests on my tours were asking for the car air-con to go on in April! Then just when you might reasonably expect Spring to turn into Summer and things to really heat up, we go into deep-freeze and with a week of June left to go we were all told we were heading into on of the coldest June’s in history. I can confirm this as I was wearing exactly the same clothes on mid-summers day and mid-winters day which says a lot about last winter as much as this summer.
Then though things began to change for the better and warmer and a week on here we find ourselves with 35C/95F heat and the nation split between sheer delight and apparent terror.
It should be said that London is in no way shape or form suitable for extreme heat just as it isn’t suitable for extreme cold. In the summer the crowds of people, cars and bad humidity make the situation stickier than Sticky the stick insect stuck on a sticky bun. We don’t have air-conditioning, our foods are heavily weighted to the winter temperatures and most of us still have to wear suits, ties and everything else that we would do in the winter.
Around .3% of people in the UK have any form of air-conditioning, we all spend too much on our heating to keep us warm in the winter,autumn, spring and this year mid-summers day. Normally my wife and I debate about getting it and then decide it isn’t worth the money until we can’t sleep for a few nights and then decide the investment isn’t going to happen for at least another year before the heat appears again seemingly unexpectedly!
I remember when I worked in an office how annoying the heat could be, not because it was hot because colleagues would immediately put on the air-conditioning units meaning feet, fingers and most places in between were frozen reducing a colleague and myself to wearing fleece jackets to work whenever it got above 30C/90F. Not any more, bring on the heatwave.
For the same reasons that we often laughingly mock our southern neighbours for taking it easy in the sun, having siestas and walking around barefoot in sandals, we can’t bring ourselves to make any compromises in our usual work and life routines. Just yesterday I was in London and saw some judges not just in several layers of clothing but also their wool hair wigs on too, how marvellous! The tube that I was sat on around 150 feet underground was 118 degrees fahrenheit (around 43Celsius) and people were complaining and melting… some of these being the very tourists I was showing around asking just a few hours earlier whether we ever get a summer.
Of course we get summers, its just that sometimes our summers are broken up by storms and cold fronts, sometimes several times a week or throughout the summer and other times they seem to last all summer long only relenting for us to have the mildest winter in history. Having it 18C (56F) in December is all well and good but most of us would prefer to have 28C every day in the summer as we did for around 2 months last year. Last night at Wimbledon, Martina Navratilova proclaimed it felt like Australia and not London but really this is what summer should be like and until about 2006 used to be like.
Whilst most of us lap up the sun and the weather in general, it also gives the opportunity for others to scare people into obvious safety precautions whilst we’re treated to horror stories of train lines buckling and cars getting stuck on melted tarmac but that’s London traffic for you. I sometimes think my car might get covered in slow growing ivy at Staples Corner even in January.
Our newspapers of course love it. Today we are told that we are enjoying hotter weather than everywhere from Hawaii to Miami to Rio (not forgetting its technically winter there) to the Middle-East. And so we very well might be but it would be more notable if we weren’t colder than Athens for about 360 days of the year.
Yes we are not just hotter than Beyonce dancing on lava but even hotter than the Sahara!
Our newspapers also have the tendency to change their temperature formats. In the summer they use Fahrenheit as 95 or 101 degrees sound much better than 37 or 40 degrees. Whilst in the summer they like to use Celsius to make those frozen cold spells seem that much colder. Minus 20C in the Scottish highlands is cold but not as cold as 5 degrees F.
Whatever your thoughts on the heatwave don’t fret as in a few short months we will soon have headlines like this! Sometimes we’re colder than Alaska or Canada or Siberia but of course the equal to being hotter than the Sahara has to be….
Now I do sympathise with the people who find hot and humid London difficult and given a choice I would have it less muggy though not cooler. Asthma and a lack of air-con can make night times uncomfortable for between a few nights to a month or so in the summer but it is also the once time of the year I don’t have to plan what to wear, don’t have to worry about the rain as even if it falls it will be cooling.
I’ve been to some hot places and remember being in the Sinai desert at 57 degrees C/ 137F in the shade and most sensible locals were either hidden from sight or taken ill in hospital. It was hot and yet not as uncomfortable as London can be at 27 degrees C and as such I loved every minute of it. I am loving every moment of it now too, even the nights when I can barely breathe and sleep even less.
This afternoon I could be sitting in the garden taking a cold drink and watching Wimbledon but like many others I am sitting in the hottest room of house doing work which probably could wait, feeling a bit guilty if I really did enjoy the weather or heaven forbid relax. I did though forgo the usual health warnings which we see and hear everywhere so what did I do in this heat, I went for my 7 mile (11.5k) walk with a small bottle of water and didn’t even drink half of it. No it wasn’t a logical thing to do but I do that walk dozens of times a year in the snow, in the rain, freezing cold, or too warm in a rain coat but just this once I can get to feel really too hot and it reminds me of how I like it. As the Noel Coward song went… only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
Many readers will remember by recent blog on Sir Nicholas Winton, the British Schindler sadly it has been announced today that Sir Nicholas died today at the age of 106. My thoughts are with the family and all those who knew this truly great man.