Yesterday I was having an email correspondence with a friend in Tokyo who was pooh-poohing reports of a “heatwave” in the British press.
“27 degrees is not a heatwave,” she said. “Here in Tokyo, it’s 36 degrees and getting hotter! That’s a heatwave.”
Agreed, the Brits have no sense of real heat given that for most of the year the island is shrouded in cloud and frequently subjected to various forms of precipitation.
But they also have no way of dealing with the few days of heat that do occur from time to time. Take this week for instance. It is warm by anyone’s standards. Not Death Valley hot but enough to make you sweaty. But then you venture onto the London Underground!
At Oxford Circus, you take two loooong escalators down to the Victoria Line. You’re now about 100 feet below the surface. Ever been down a mine? It’s the same thing. Stultifying heat. Add about 10,000 commuters all jostling to get onto the same platform and the temperature rises by another few degrees. Then the tube arrives and you all cram on like cattle on the way to the abattoir.
For a start there’s no air-con on the trains. And no windows that can open (health and safety!). Your face is buried in someone else’s armpit, someone’s briefcase is lodged in your lower spine and the temperature goes up even more. It’s now 105 degrees (or thereabouts!). Suddenly you are in Death Valley and you’re drenched in sweat and about to pass out.
And then the tube stops because of signal failure or a broken down carriage up ahead.
And you start to simmer and boil and then slowly stew in your own body juices. This was the scene on my way home yesterday, and just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the tube stopped at the next station and a large chap got on and squeezed in next to me in a tiny space that didn’t – until then – even exist. AND HE WAS WEARING A JUMPER AND A THICK WINTER JACKET!
I almost passed out on his behalf. What was wrong with him? Was he ill? Was he suicidal? Maybe a suicide bomber? I didn’t wait to find out, leaping free as the carriage doors snapped sharply behind me and choosing instead to find an air-conditioned pub and have a few frosty beers till things cooled down.