Dear Readers, the heat and humidity in London for the past few days has been difficult to bear for those of us already prone to hot flushes – this is the longest hot spell in London since 1961, with temperatures consistently going above 34 degrees. I can hear all you people who live in Australia and South Africa and Asia laughing your heads off, but here in the UK we aren’t used to it, and the heat island effect of being in the city means that it never really gets chilly. Poor old things we are, sweating at our laptops and trying to decide whether a cup of tea actually does help or not. And so last night, braving the mosquitoes, we sat in our back garden, listening to the thunder and watching the lightning hopefully. Sadly, we got not a drop of a wet stuff.
There is something about sitting quietly, waiting for something to happen. I noticed a crisp, dry leaf falling prematurely from the whitebeam and skittering down the trunk. I saw the beautiful fluffy black cat rummaging in the leaves, and summoned up the energy to chase him after he grabbed a frog and ran away with it. I saw lots more lazy wasps amidst all the bees and hoverflies, a sure sign of autumn if ever there is one.
The heat lay over everything like a damp towel. A fork of lightning appeared over by the block of flats, and a few drops of rain spattered down, and then stopped.
We were watching for bats, and one careered past, flying low over the lilac, zig-zagging above the pond and then round and off. I didn’t see another one. A robin sang half-heartedly for a few seconds and then stopped, as if embarrassed.
The darkness gathered, as it does.
And still no rain. So many new houses and flats are built without adequate protection from the sun – there are some apartments with enormous windows half a mile from me, and they are all south-facing. During the last heatwave, I was listening to the radio and a young woman said that it was so dangerously hot indoors that she had to take her new baby and her toddler and sit in a cafe all day, nursing a drink for as long as she dared. We are not prepared for the world that is coming, not at all.
Mum used to hate it when it got too hot. She’d strip off to her bra and sit in her chair complaining. Latterly, she forgot how to use the electric fan so the neighbours used to pop in to make sure it was on. Like so many elderly people, she didn’t drink enough either. Dad, on the other hand, loved the sun, and would go brown at the merest whisper of sunlight. I rather like the heat, normally, but in the middle of a pandemic it feels like one more thing that’s out of my control, something else to bear.
I have scattered a handful of dog food in case the fox puts in an appearance. She doesn’t, but the frog-murdering cat enjoys it.
I slap at a mosquito, and notice that the single bite has somehow set off my heat rash – I have no idea why this happens, but a solitary nibble by a midge or gnat has me scratching all over. What a wreck I am. A drop in the temperature of about 10 degrees Fahrenheit would turn me into a completely different person. As it is I am a sweaty, exhausted, slightly headachy curmudgeon with no redeeming features whatsoever. I hope that, wherever you are, you are dealing with things better than I am.