Brits Bake in Bonkers Heat
What It's All About Blog by Tony Forder
Landing back in Newark a couple of days ago, we traded one heatwave for another. London was hot when we were there but not record-breaking. We got out just in time as temperatures hit 104F this week.
The Brits go a little bonkers when it gets too hot. When it gets uncomfortably hot clothes seem to become uncomfortable too, revealing a mixed blessing of bare bellies and skimpy dresses.
They were already complaining when it was in the 80s during our visit. But then Brits complain about the weather no matter what it is.
They do have good reason though. Here, when the mercury soars we can retreat inside to the comfort of the AC. Most people in Britain don't have Air Con, as they call it, not even in their cars. Well, the more recent ones do, but if you want to just drive around to keep cool, you're gonna go broke at over $8 a gallon. However, that's an imperial gallon, which is 25% bigger than a U.S gallon, so the petrol cost is nearer $7 a US gallon, which doesn't sound so bad considering we always figured it was double, pre-covid $5 a gallon there to $2.50 here.
Anyway, they don't really want you to be able to figure it out as they have sold gas by the liter for several years. Curiously though they didn't at the same time go metric with distances and speeds which are still in miles. It all kind fits in with driving on the left if you know what I mean. I wonder if they tout car economy in miles per liter?
Happily though they kept the pint in the pub, thank God, one of the true cornerstones of British life – which means that punters get a full 20oz for 5 pounds ($6, not bad really!).
They did however switch temperatures from the Fahrenheit of my youth to Centigrade, or Celsius as it is more commonly known, so we were constantly making conversions to ascertain how hot it really was. My normal benchmark is that 20 Celsius is 68 Fahrenheit, an average fermentation temperature. I now know that 30C is 86F and that 40C is the heretofore unknown 104F, or in British vernacular Bloody F...... Hot (BFH).
So how do Brits avoid the heat? Like the cows and sheep, they seek out the shade – trees, the way it was here before the mighty AC appeared, like the TV, as a status symbol in the 1950s, transitioning to common use by the 1970s. Most towns had, and still have shade tree commissions. But the Brits also have their own national AC – the sea or seaside as they call it. Since Britain is an island, you really don't have to go too far to take a dip in the cooling waters of the English Channel, Atlantic Ocean, or Irish or North Sea. Except that as everyone heads lemming-like to the beach, the roads become clogged and you can spend hours in traffic, usually with no AC.
And it's about to get worse as schools get out this week, almost a month after ours. Indeed, we had stealthily planned our trip to beat the onslaught of holidaymakers.
Although it was pre-heatwave we saw no rain in our 10 days in southern England and murmurs of drought were whispering on the airwaves, some even calling for a ban on paddling pools, which seemed a little drastic.
It was somewhat refreshing to be away from the unrelenting pressure of a fractiously divided country riddled by shootings and a reactionary religious faction wrestling away an entire political party from the foundations of democracy. At least the British politicians had the backbone to dump their self-entitled, scandal-ridden Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He resigned the day before we arrived after a mass walkout of his Conservative members left him no choice. Having barely survived the mess of Partygate, more scandals came to light, the final nail in the coffin being his support of a friend and appointee named Pincher who allegedly did more than live up to his name.
The resulting Punch and Judy show to find Johnson's successor to lead the Tory (Conservative) party (and country) provided the political entertainment during our visit.
Not that everyone was paying attention – too busy looking for shade. Give me a pint under an oak tree's branches in the beer garden of an English country pub and I'll be happy (and ain't that What It's All About). But perhaps not the beloved cask-conditioned brew, when the heat can warm cellars to bring a pinch of truth to the myth of warm English beer. Instead, a cold lager is the ticket.
And if you don't drink, you can always suck on a refreshing ice lolly (popsicle).