As most people know, the English love to talk about the weather. It is a conversation starter between strangers, and most people I know follow the weather forecasts on the news with a religious fervour.
Now we really do have something to talk about, as we face the hottest temperature EVER recorded in Britain.
On Monday and Tuesday, temperatures in parts of England are set to reach a possible 41C. That is almost 106F, a heat unheard of in this country and never recorded previously. In the area around Beetley, we are being forecast 39-40C on both days. The last day when it got anywhere near that was on the 17th of June, when we saw 33C in Norfolk.
News reports and weather forecasts are full of dire warnings. They are expecting that thousands of people with underlying health conditions will simply die from the heat. The government has issued a ‘RED ALERT‘ weather warning for the first time in our history, and it comes with a lot of advice on how to ‘survive the heat’.
*Pets should be kept in, and dogs walked before sunrise or after sunset.
*People should make alternative working arrangements to avoid going outside.
*Rail travel will be badly affected as rails will buckle in the heat next week.
*Everyone should drink lots of water, and stay inside if possible.
*Do not wear dark colours, or restrictive clothing.
*Windows and curtains/blinds should be kept closed, to stop sunshine heating up rooms and hot air coming inside the house.
*We should avoid using cars as they will overheat in traffic, as will their drivers.
*Look out for signs of heatstroke if you have to go outside.
*Do not swim in cold lakes or rivers as the change in body temperature could be dangerous.
*Some schools will be either closing during the heatwave, or sending pupils home early.
For those of you who live in countries where such Summer temperatures are normal, you might wonder what all the fuss is about, I understand that.
But you have to consider that Britain is generally geared up for ten months of winter. As a result, houses are mainly brick built, with insulation in the walls and roof spaces. Most of us have carpeted floors, and many of us (me included) do not have airconditioning in the house, or in our cars. Few houses have very large windows to open, and fewer have shutters on the outside to stop the heat from the sun.
Britain was a cold country, and still is for much of the year. If it gets to 25C here (77F) we think it is a ‘hot summer’. Now temperatures are on the rise in summer months, and even winters are slightly warmer. We have not planned ahead. Houses are still being built in the same way, and transport systems have hardly changed in fifty years.
People get so excited by a hot summer that they rush outside to sunbathe on beaches or have barbecues, only to get badly sunburnt.
So the government advice sounds very strange to us. And what of the people who have no choice but to go out? Shop-workers, emergency workers, self-employed trades with jobs booked. My wife has to go to work on both days, as she works for a Doctors’ practice. She cannot do her job from home, or make ‘alternative working arrangements’.
There is going to have to be some future planning to cope with the ever-increasing heat in Summers to come. However, I have not yet heard a single politician coming up with any plan that includes that.
So we will have to see what happens on Monday and Tuesday next week.