Summer ‘Heatwaves’ in London – Psychological?

Okay – so the Australian went to London and started enduring the ‘heatwave’ conditions of London in July.

For years, I’ve always laughed at the news reports that come flooding in every year alerting the world that Britons are suffering through the longest and hottest summer on record… enduring blistering heat of 27 degrees for 3 days straight with no let up in sight.

Wait… was ‘blistering’ and 27 degrees used in the same sentence?  Did I mis-hear? Surely, 27 degrees is a comfortable and refreshing break from endless days of 35+ degrees that we experience in Australia (let alone those all too common 45 degree days?).

Fast forward to the now – summer of 2017 in London.  I’m experiencing my first long stay here throughout the hottest part of the year and have to say, it’s different to what I expected – and here’s why (Maybe this will add a bit of balance to the argument, but probably not much);

It’s a different kind of heat

You’ve heard people defending their disdain for the heat by adamantly stating that the heat is ‘different’ in London.  Is it actually that different, and what does ‘different’ actually mean?

I have to say, I agree.  It is ‘different’.  This city is predominantly stone and brick – spattering of greenery are concentrated in the parks, with the remainder of town basking in the sun and absorbing / reflecting that heat.  Tree lined streets are reserved for some of those exclusive parts of town – on the whole, there’s little shade.

Air flow seems to drop here when the heat rises too.  There’s no refreshing breeze as we’re a fair way from the sea here.  Even though it’s not dramatically ‘hot’ – the heat seems to hang around and sales (and prices) of pedestal fans skyrocket and the shelves soon become empty.

But, I admit – 27 degrees is not ‘hot’ by any standard.

This city is not equipped for warm days

For the points I note above, this city is not equipped for the heat.  It’s definitely geared to keeping everyone warm in the colder months – homes are practically all double glazed (also, making them wonderfully quiet), homes are beautifully centrally heated and there are buckets everywhere which house salt, which is applied to pavements when ice rears its head in winter.

One thing that I’ve become accustomed to in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada and the US is an abundance of air conditioning.  It’s in our cars, it’s in our homes, it’s in our stores, it’s on trains buses and trams, it’s most certainly at work… in London, not so.

Air conditioning is rarely found in homes, often not in your car, sometimes at work (if you work in a glass office), maybe not in stores and sometimes not even in malls.  Most tube lines are also not air-conditioned – being reminiscent of the burning pits of hell on hot days, the tube can sometimes edge what feels to be 35+ degrees underground whilst you’re buried into your fellow commuter’s armpits.

Put quite simply, there is nowhere to escape the temperate days – aside from my favourite places in town – the parks and gardens.

You’ll have seen the images of thousands of Londoners flocking to the parks and taking off their clothes.  There’s a reason – it’s blissfully cool under the trees and seems to be the only place in town that attracts a breeze.

But I do admit, it’s not that hot.

Everyone likes to complain

This section probably doesn’t need any further explanation but the heat certainly provides some wonderful opportunities to complain in the beautiful dance of small-talk.  “Oh, I know, isn’t it awful?’ is heard constantly, together with emails containing “I trust you’re surviving in this awful heat” and people wishing that they were abroad and by the beach.  Good luck, no more bank holidays until August, mate.

But, whilst I join in complaining, it’s not that hot.

There’s something unifying about it

Nothing unites, like a common enemy.  In London, the heat plays that role brilliantly.  There’s comfort in the fact that everyone around you had a terrible night’s sleep too – because they don’t have air conditioning either.  From the dustman, to the office-worker – we’re all united in our lack of sleep and being drenched in sweat.

Yet, as unifying as the heat is, it’s still not that hot.

A change of mindset can make a huge difference

One ‘hot’ day (28 degrees, no less) – I was exhausted and trying to seek reprieve from the heat in the flat – Doors closed to prevent heat from coming in and preserving the minimal coolness that existed in the flat – I yearned for cooler days… that was, until I had a strike of logic…. “What would I be doing in Melbourne, if it was 28 degrees?”

The answer was quite simple.  I’d be out and about enjoying the sunshine and carrying on as normal.  There’d be nothing more blissful than a lovely walk through a park or a bit of exercise outdoors.

I ignored the official advice to stay indoors – took a bottle of water with me and walked up the hill in Greenwich.  It was wonderful and all of a sudden, it wasn’t that hot anymore.  Sure, I couldn’t escape the heat, but a nice cool shower when I returned home was great.  I also reminisced about growing up in the 80’s with no air conditioning.  Suddenly I also remembered all of the tricks like putting a bowl of water in front of the fan and applying a cold facewasher to the back of my neck to cool down.

In summary – It’s not that hot, really. Those little creature comforts that we’ve come to expect in Australia, however, aren’t available.  So on that level, I validate being adversely affected by the heat here.  But I agree… it’s not that hot and mostly it’s purely psychological due to not being able to escape the discomfort.

What do you think?  Have you experienced these conditions and have an opinion?? Let me know in the comments below.

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