Phew, What a Scorcher


We’ve had a bit of a savage heatwave here in the States recently and the temperature where I am reached a sweltering, Betty Swollocks 100F a couple of weeks ago (that’s 37C to you Eurotrash.) Someone asked me if it ever got that hot in London and while I don’t ever remember triple-digit heat in the city myself apparently it did hit a record-breaking 102F in the capital one day in 2003 which must have turned our non-air-conditioned Tube trains into even more fetid cauldrons of sweat and BO than usual.

Ask any Brit of a certain age about hot weather and chances are the first thing they’ll mention is the summer of 1976 which for many of us is still the touchstone for memorably scorching weather. There have been baking hot summers since but none that went on so long with so little rain (it was the driest year since records began in 1772) and caused such bad water shortages that some people had to get theirs by filling buckets from standpipes in the street.

I turned 14 that summer and in photos I have a nice dark tan, but my strongest memory of the time doesn’t involve sun-kissed days playing outside or carefree adventures around London (though I’m sure there was a lot of that), but instead the one thing that has stuck in my mind was an episode of Blue Peter that was all about tips for conserving water and John Noakes said we should turn the tap off when brushing our teeth instead of letting it run. Ever since then I’ve always turned the tap off. Thanks John!

Of course no one had heard the phrase “global warming” in the 70s — in fact the big scare at the time was the chance of another Ice Age — and apparently skin cancer didn’t exist either because we didn’t cover ourselves in SPF +100 before we went outside. No, it was a quick lube on the face and shoulders with Boot’s suncream and if we got sunburned (and I did, a lot) mum would cool our skin down with some cold Calomine Lotion straight from the fridge. So it’s no wonder the summer of 1976 seems so idyllic and perfect in our memories, hot weather didn’t fill us with feelings of impending doom back then.

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was number one all that summer but I don’t think we need to hear that again, do we?

Download: Sun – Donovan (mp3)

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The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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