The sun came out in Britain this week. It was treated as a national emergency.
There were notices posted in train stations warning passengers to drink plenty of water and tell a member of staff if they started to feel unwell. The newspapers doubted whether trains would run at all, because – they predicted – the tracks would be likely to buckle in the 32⁰ heat. There was no point going by car, either, because the road surface would probably melt.
Old people were told not to go out and – in case it had not occurred to them – to try to stay cool. Ice lollies were suggested, and cold drinks. Spectators at Wimbledon were strongly advised to wear hats and use sunscreen. People everywhere slathered on factor 50, which is virtually whitening cream.
Academics were called on for learned advice as to how to survive the terrible ordeal of a sunny day. Wear wet clothes, said someone from Cambridge University, and open the windows upstairs and down. Fan your face, suggested a professor from Portsmouth University, stick your hands in cold water, take a lukewarm shower and eat curry.
“Nightmare…misery…unbearable,” said the Daily Mail, although it said the same about the idea of Labour winning the election. Even the Daily Express took a break from hysterical rants about immigrants and ‘Europe’ to shout KILLER HEAT BLASTS BRITAIN. The editorial probably blamed the European Court of Human Rights.
As always in times of grave emergency – it was the same in the Second World War – ideological differences were put aside and the supposedly left-leaning BBC took the same line as the right-wing Express. “Heatwaves can have a profound effect on the body,” it declared on its website, “… it can be deadly”. It warned of the danger of heat cramps, heat rash, heat oedema, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Symptoms, it said, include confusion and disorientation. It perhaps should have added that they are also consistent with sitting in the park all day drinking beer.
By Thursday, the crisis was over. The weather map was covered in reassuring grey clouds and double spots of rain. It was bouncing off the roof by the evening, and the relieved population went back to planning its holidays to countries where the temperature stays around 40⁰ all summer and no one thinks anything about it.
© Richard Senior 2015