An Arizonan Reacts to the London Heat Wave

How Bad Was the London Heat Wave?

As my daughter and I were ending our hike in the beautifully cool Scottish Highlands, several people cautioned us about the heat wave soon to hit London. We laughed.

I live in southeast Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, and my daughter lives in central Florida. Not only have we lived with hot weather, but we actually prefer it. It was supposed to be 100 deg F soon after we got to London. We laughed and smiled. A hundred degrees was nothing to us.

A few days later, sweltering in the London heat, we were no longer laughing. Or smiling. I don’t think this guard at Buckingham palace was happy in his thick clothes and big hat. Why is 100 degrees so bad in London? For starters, it is not supposed to be that hot there. The latitude of London is 51.5. That’s farther north than any place in the U.S. and it is about the same latitude as Calgary. For comparison, Montreal is south of Paris. If you’ve been to London, you know it gets dark quite early in the winter, and in summer it stays light until late, late into the evening. That’s a sign you’re fairly far north. I’ll repeat—a city at 51.5 is not supposed to be 100. Actually, it was slightly above that by the time we left. We went to Paris after this, and it was 102 there and equally as miserable. Climate change is a real bitch, but more than that it is an existential threat to the entire planet. People cannot exist at consistently high temps, and the British are simply not equipped for it.

British Buildings

Those cute, quaint buildings that we know and love in England are, for the most part, not air conditioned, and the ventilation is poor. There is a distinct lack of public drinking fountains, and the shops have a noticeable absence of cold water in the coolers. Londoners (and many tourists) were walking around in suits and jeans. No, people! Breathable fabrics are a must when the temperatures soar. And where are your water bottles and hats? Come on, London. You’ve got to do better. This is likely to be the new normal.

I don’t think air conditioning is the solution. I could go on and on about how people like me have been pleading for the world to take global warming seriously. Droughts, floods, fires, crop failures, infectious diseases, refugees . . . all a result of the climate crisis; I talk about this stuff when I give climate lectures. It is difficult to remain positive, as I watch the world careen off the cliff. But we can still prevent the damage from getting worse IF WE TAKE ACTION NOW. Have you seen the Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up”? It’s a metaphor for the climate crisis, and sadly, we know how this movie ends.

The London Tube

One of the worst victims of the heat wave was the London Tube (subway/underground). Wow. That is truly a miserable experience in the heat. We were wearing masks and dragging our bags because most of the taxi drivers took the day off due to the heat (those old, typically British cabs are not air conditioned and try getting an Uber when the Tube shuts down two lines). There is just no ventilation on those crowded trains and in the stations. I still can’t believe neither of us got Covid.

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Tower Hotel (formerly The Thistle, where Eric and I stayed 33 years ago), and some of the rooms had failing or nonexistent a/c. Not us though. We actually felt a bit guilty for having such a comfortable room, next to the Tower, overlooking the Thames and Tower Bridge. My only complaint was the Pimm’s Party being held on the grass next to the hotel. They were completely out of Pimm’s when we tried to order. Have you ever had a Pimm’s and lemonade on ice, with fresh strawberries and fresh orange, a cucumber slice, and a bit of mint? Delightful and very British. No Pimm’s for us! Honestly, how can they call it a Pimm’s Party if there’s no Pimm’s?

This bottle of Pimm’s is at my house. I made my own drink when I got home. And yes, I understand and acknowledge my complete and utter privilege here. And while we’re at it, I also acknowledge that despite my efforts at reducing trash and consumption, driving an EV, recycling, and all the other things I do to help the planet, flying is a big contributor to greenhouse gases–despite my carbon offsets.

I ♥ London

I’ve been to London more times than any other European city except for Amsterdam (I lived about 20 miles away for over 3 years). I adore London. I never say goodbye when I leave but rather “I will see you soon.” I particularly love the public parks. Sadly, St. James Park (near Buckingham Palace) and Hyde Park (near Harrods) were both brown and flowerless. It hurt my soul to see it. London is an amazing city with theatre (we saw “Cursed Child” in the West End and it was FANTASTIC), the best museum in the world (The British Museum), art museums and culture and shopping. The Harry Potter Studio Tour is awesome (yes, it is air conditioned). I mean, how cool is this?

Did I mention we went to a teatime called “Potions tea”?

London, Do Better!

London, you’ve got to do better in handling climate change, before people start dying. Get some public water fountains installed, educate people about hats and water bottles and proper attire. Do something about the ventilation in the underground. And, maybe, have Pimm’s. And ice. Why is there never any ice?