Or the state of the city of London as soon as temperatures reach the early twenties in Celsius.
|Don't freak out, please, this is August, not May or June|
Let us be clear about a simple fact: heat is not just an urban phenomenon. Countryside-dwelling folk experience it too. Seaside residents also get to have their share of pleasant, warm weather. But those living in metropolises get to see a completely different mise en scène as soon as the first signs of summer arrive.
As Exhibit A, Urban Dictionary brings you the temperatures that swept through the Big Smoke in recent days. Although “swept through” is the wrong phrase here. It was more like they landed gently on the delicate skin of the denizens of London. However, the reaction was, as it usually is, the same as in previous years. A Miami-like state of mind takes over and for the next few days for as long as the temperatures remain hovering above the early 20s, people go about their business as if they lived in Florida and not in Barnet.
The most conspicuous sign of urban heat is the sudden appearance of convertibles all over the city. The welcome presence of sunshine provides the perfect background for rolling that roof down, turning up the volume of the music and driving around in one’s undies. Or similar. This is the Florida effect Urban Dictionary most dislikes. Once it is July and August there are more reasons to let it all hang out, but in bloody, still-freezing May? Or early June with its torrential downpours whose aftermath usually leaves a fresh breeze behind chilling your you-know-whats? No, sorry, count Urban Dictionary out of that.
At the same time Urban Dictionary feels sympathy somewhat for those early-summer urban-heaters. It sees them trying to speed up around streets that are not suitable for speed. It joins them in their despair and disappointment. Therein lies the irony. This is London, what did you expect? Of course you’re bound to feel frustrated, urban-heater. You get the engine of your convertible nicely going, letting everyone in the vicinity know what type of car you are driving. You accelerate to the T-junction, turn right and off you go… until you get to the first set of traffic lights two-hundred yards hence. Then, you have to turn left, go around a bend, come to another T-junction, turn right on to a one-way road and just when you are about to accelerate you are hit by a sign saying that the maximum speed limit is 20mph. I do not expect you to respect it, after all, you never do, but I can see your frustration and your line of thought: if only I were in Miami or California or somewhere similar, a long, open motorway ahead of me, sun-kissed by round-the-year warm weather, then, I would be justified in wearing my denim cut-offs and vest, left hand resting nicely on the car window and right hand on the steering wheel. Ahh, bliss! But then, reality strikes: another set of traffic lights, followed by another one-way system.
The phenomenon of urban heat is contrary to the way London works. Even in suburbia you still get a very convoluted street layout. A-roads are the urban-heater’s best bet but the speed is usually limited to 50mph.
Still, 50mph is enough for you to rest your right arm on the car window and leave your left one on the steering wheel. Lean back and allow yourself to think you are in Miami or somewhere in California. Until you reach the next set of traffic lights or the sun goes in hiding. Then, you will probably wonder why on earth you left your hooded jumper/stretcher at home. After all, it is only May or June.
Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 13th June at 6pm (GMT)