Surviving the London Heatwave

Oh the last few weeks, months even have been annoyingly warm, even hot but this last week took the biscuit with scientific temperatures surpassing 40 degrees in London and quite a few other places in the U.K. though practicality, places like back garden were 47 degrees.


London is only fractionally under the temperature threshold for being classified as a Sub-Tropical city with some small neighbourhoods arguably attaining that status. One of my most popular posts ever is Busting the myth of London being a Rainy city and one look at any garden or park these days will show you just how straw like the lawns are.

A very yellow Greenwich despite being next to the river.

Being a tour guide as others hide away or nominally work from home, I’m out on my feet for up to 14 hours a day not just walking but talking and energetically bounding up and down stairs often without any food or drink. Bad as that is, it is nothing compared to some of the infamously London Underground Lines, some of which have an average annual temperature of about 27 degrees Celsius, so you can imagine if it is 40 above ground, just how it is beneath it. Nothing says summer to me like that distinctive taste of the Central Line during warm weather.

Several of my tourists have quit mid-walk or cancelled before hand due to the hot weather. I find it is always people from supposedly hot places like Texas or Australia. I do my best and warn them and they find the idea that London might be too hot for them a little laughable but it turns out they only do hot weather if they are in air-conditioned surroundings in dry desert like heat, not walking around in our humid air. I’ve never ever had a tourist from Canada, Scandinavia or the U.K. even mention in passing the weather if it is approaching or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit whereas anything above about 90 degreesF/ 30C is getting into “I quit” territory for some visitors.

What I find worse about it all is the heat at night. My bedroom often doesn’t get under 25-27 degrees and after a few months of it never being near 20, it gets a bit much especially when you have asthma and related complications. In fact my old Georgian house with its low pitched slate roof tiles and small one window per room actually radiates heat overnight so much so it is actually often warmer at 5am than it is at 10 or 11pm when the sun finally goes down beneath the horizon.

I’ve been in temperatures over 50 degrees C / 130F in Egypt and Jordan during their heatwaves and it’s been much more comfortable than London at 25C / 80F a fact re-iterated to me as I was waiting for a bus at Harrow station when a man from Kuwait told me that in Kuwait, 40 degrees is good, 50 degrees is ok but in London 15 degrees is good, 20 degrees is good, 25 degrees is ok but 30 degrees is very, very no-no good. When I told him today was over 40 degrees he shrugged his shoulders and replied it is very, very, very no-no-no good good.

As it turned out Kuwait was one of only 2% of the world that was warmer than London that day (see map below) but I think we both would have preferred over there if only for reasons of comfort.

The U.K. was hotter than 98% of the planet.

There is a saying that when two Englishmen meet, their talk is of the weather. Research indicates that on average, 94% of British talk about the weather at least every 6 hours and 38% of us have talked about the weather within the last hour. For once perhaps, it was quite understandable with such an impact it made on services and infrastructures. Londons fire brigade responded to more calls for fires than for any other day since WW2.

I’m not one who likes hot or even warm weather. If it could be about 10-15 degrees every day that would be fine by me. I don’t go and sit on sunny beaches or generally even go overseas. I’ve only sat in my garden once this summer and that was when it rained after a previous hot few days. I never complain about how cold it is and simply love the weather from around Halloween to Easter.

I remember reading and talking about Global Warming in the 1980s when I was giving my pocket money to save the seals in the North Sea and informing my mother she should be changing her hair-spray and similar products to stop acid rain and CFCs from destroying the Ozone Layer. What a shame that people back then didn’t listen to people like us, many still don’t. They’ve ruined the planet for nothing but money and convenience.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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12 Responses to Surviving the London Heatwave

  1. That’s too F*ng hot, dude. ANYWHERE.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We went to Greenwich last week and couldn’t believe how dead the grass looked. Thankfully with rain it will come back to life… but even walking around the museum last week was oppressive with the heat.. and that was after those high temperatures. Great images xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ankur Mithal says:

    At 40C, people who generally live in hot climates, like we in India, start becoming a wee bit uncomfortable. This year was perhaps the hottest in a long long time. Max temperatures that usually topped out at 44 on maybe a few occasions in earlier years, regularly touched 46 day after day in April, May and June, our hottest months. I believe nature has great redemptive capacity, but humans may not let that happen. It will not make money for anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did think of you when it was 41 and thought how you would find it being relatively more used to it. I think India and a few nations in SE Asia are the only ones who share the humidity too compared to hot but dry climates in North Africa, Australia and parts of the USA. It’s such a shame that a small percentage of humans have broken and continue to ruin our planet and climate which apart from all the death and suffering is as you say, going to be very expensive for almost everyone. Like you I’d think if only humans did their bit, the planet would very quickly reach a level of equilibrium. Here in the U.K. I see so many apparently environmentally friendly and liberal people go protesting or campaigning but so many of them live a very extravagant lifestyle. I’m pleased to say that I have done 2 or 3 different surveys and my carbon footprint and similar measures come up less than the average Sub-Saharan African and so not hurting the planet. Not that it will do me any good in the coming decades. I dread to think how parts of India might be in 2050 or 2100.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ankur Mithal says:

        It looks like a pretty slippery slope. A bunch of people with vested interest tout a solution to an existing problem. After some time, that solution creates bigger issues. And something else gets pushed by another bunch of people with vested interest. And so on. Nobody pushes less consumption. It is bad for the people who make money. It is bad for governments. It will never happen. Except to the extent a few conscious people do it on their own, risking raised eyebrows for not using the latest gadgets like clothes dryers in hot climates like India and probably refrigerators in Greenland.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I totally agree. Whilst recycling is much better than it doing so, at the end of the day it is the act of consuming or purchasing that needs to be drastically reduced. I can’t really move my household waste bin in the garden as after 2.5 years, it has yet to be filled up!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. fgsjr2015 says:

    I empathize with the parts of the UK, and the world, suffering extreme heatwaves that could result in serious illness and/or danger to life.

    As a lifelong resident of southwestern British Columbia, the unprecedented heatwave here in June 2021, described by meteorologists as a ‘stalling dome’ of high heat, left me feeling I could never again complain about the weather being too cold.

    But then complain I somewhat did when most of the province, including southwestern B.C., suffered an unprecedently cold bunch of days in January, which was described by meteorologists as a ‘stalling dome’ of freezing cold. Ironic, yes, but not coincidental.

    Meantime, mass global addiction to fossil fuel products by the larger public undoubtedly helps keep the average consumer quiet about the planet’s greatest polluter, lest they feel and/or be publicly deemed hypocritical. Neoliberals and conservatives remain preoccupied with vocally criticizing one another for their relatively trivial politics and diverting attention away from some of the planet’s greatest polluters, where it should and needs to be sharply focused.

    Also problematically, if the universal availability of green-energy alternatives will come at the profit-margin expense of traditional ‘energy’ production companies, one can expect formidable obstacles, including the political and regulatory sort. If something notably conflicts with corporate big-profit interests, even very progressive motions are greatly resisted, often enough successfully. …

    One really must feel for today’s children, who have to face so many bleak decades of extreme weather and its consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your great comments. I. Sorry to hear about your extreme weather too. I saw a fascinating documentary on the BBC last week how in the 1980s it was clear to most neutral minded people that global warming as happening and how a handful of very rich and almost entirely American fossil fuel producers managed to trick, coerce, lie and likely bribe their way to maintaining the statues quo for another 40 years when really it could all have been dealt with back then at less expense for people generally, a much reduced impact on climate and a happier cleaner world for us all. Funnily the only people who’d have come out of this less well off were the fossil fuel people and those in politics who are broadly in their pockets. At a tangent, as much as I love Germany and have more German friends than almost anywhere else, the way successive governments there have embraced fossil fuels from Russia even at a time the rest of Europe was at least making some progress on cleaner energy is shocking, let alone that they did so by paying Putin. And such a hi tech and rich country too.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. fgsjr2015 says:

    The 700 Club’s evangelical-Christian Gordon Robertson recently talked about heatwaves in Europe and U.S. while not once mentioning climate change or global warming. He basically dismissed green energy while promoting continued, if not increased, fossil fuel use in order to, among other things, generate more electricity for air conditioners.

    Similarly, Canada’s previous prime minister, the thinly-veiled-theocratic also-evangelical-Christian Stephen Harper, was unrelenting in his pro-fossil-fuel/anti-natural-environment war against science.

    In fact, many of Canada’s leading conservative politicians are/were ideologically aligned with the pro-fossil-fuel mainstream American evangelical-Christian community and Republican Party.
    There undoubtedly is a serious potential hazard in theologically inclined people getting into high office with their dangerous disregard — and even contempt — for the natural environment.

    As another example, in the midst of yet another unprecedented Amazonian rainforest wildfire two summers ago, Brazilian president and evangelical Christian Jair Bolsonaro declared that his presidency — and, I presume, all of the formidable environmental damage he inflicts while in power — is “fulfilling a mission from God”.

    Generally shared amongst them all is the belief that to defend the natural environment from the planet’s greatest polluters, notably big fossil fuel, is to go against God’s will and therefore is inherently evil. [Some even credit the bone-dry-vegetation areas uncontrollably burning in California each year to some divine wrath upon collective humankind’s ‘sinfulness’.] …

    But then even our ethically-challenged mainstream news-media support Big Fossil Fuel’s interests. … Canadian media conglomerate Postmedia is on record allying itself with Canada’s fossil fuel industry, including the mass extraction and export of bitumen, the world’s dirtiest and most consequentially polluting crude oil.

    Also, a then-publisher of Postmedia’s National Post said: “From its inception, the National Post has been one of the country’s leading voices on the importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness internationally and our economic well-being in general. We will work with [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] to amplify our energy mandate and to be a part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.”

    [“Mair on Media’s ‘Unholiest of Alliances’ With Energy Industry”, Nov.14 2017, The Tyee].
    Additionally, a few years ago, Postmedia had acquired a lobbying firm with close ties to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in order to participate in his government’s $30 million PR “war room” in promoting the industry’s interests.

    Furthermore, in May of 2021, Postmedia refused to run paid ads by Leadnow, a social and environmental justice organization, that exposed the Royal Bank of Canada as the largest financer of the nation’s fossil fuel extraction.

    Really, how can allying itself with such an environmental monstrosity possibly be considered ethical journalism?! Unless, of course, it has become so systematic thus normalized — i.e. the ethical (and sometimes even the moral) standard has been further lowered — that those who are aware of it, notably politicians and political writers, don’t bother publicly discussing it.

    Liked by 1 person

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