Tuesday 31 July 2012

Keep Cool and Classy

Update: It’s so hot in the summer of 2020 that Brits are seriously talking about installing air-conditioning at home. They may come round to it, as they eventually embraced central heating, despite both being “American”. Unfortunately aircon contributes to global warming, and uses a lot of electricity. Americans are not “soft”, or more practical than the Brits – electricity is much cheaper there.

I remember ads on the tube for portable aircon units from the 70s and 80s – but that was before most offices were air-conditioned. In the summer we opened windows and turned on large fans. In an office or hall with no opening windows, turning on the aircon can be perilous. Sometimes it gets switched off because "draughts give you flu". As a teenager, I got on a bus on the hottest day of the year. Opposite me on the bench seat were three ladies in thick woollen overcoats. Sweltering, I opened a window. They frowned and said, “Are you warm? We are not!”

More tips for keeping your cool:

Sleep under a damp sheet, dampen your nightie.

Turn your room heater to “cool”, and place a tray of ice in its path.

Buy a plant spray, fill it with water and spritz yourself.

Direct the plant spray at the fan for a cooling mist.

Make a room spray by combining vodka and a few drops of essential oil in a small pump-action bottle. Spritz yourself, and direct at the fan. (Don't try drinking the scented vodka.)

If you have sash windows, open them top and bottom. Warm air exits through the top slot, cool air enters through the bottom slot. (From 50 Ways to Save the Planet, Sian Berry)

A friend advises: On a still, hot day, shut the windows and draw the curtains to create a cool interior. This is why Mediterranean houses have external window shutters. (You can also close the shutters and open the windows.) We could also borrow European tiled floors.

Upwards used to despise cold drinks, but in the 18th century these were thought to cause malaria. And in the colonies, ice in drinks might give you dysentery.

In hot weather, aristocratic Caro wears a linen dress, with a cardigan for the chilly evenings. She shudders at people who reveal “acres of sunburned flesh”. Young Stow Crats used to wear a jersey slung over their shoulders capewise, or with the sleeves tied loosely round the neck (never round the waist). Caro says “Create a through draught by opening doors and windows, and take up the (beautiful, Persian) rugs in the hall – York stone flags are so cool.” She makes her own lemonade using a recipe from Mrs Beeton. (1/2 pint cold water, juice of one lemon, 1/4 tsp bicarb, castor sugar to taste. Add the lemon-juice to the water, sweeten, stir in the bicarb and drink while the mixture is effervescing.)

Upper middle-class Upwards who live in Hampstead open the trunk where they keep all the summer clothes they’ve had for 30 years and take out an old cotton number which they wear with thick, flat, brown Clarks sandals. They are so out they're in, but they don't care. They drink Pimm's.

Lower middle-class Jen Teale says she’s got a tan in Morocco when she’s just gone lobster and damaged her skin. She drinks Campari and soda.

Samantha Upward can’t sunbathe because it’s a capitalist plot so she remains very white, like a Victorian lady. But she can’t take practical steps to keep cool (problem-solving is so goal-oriented!). She can’t wear a baseball cap to keep the sun out of her eyes because they’re American. She may wear a floppy hat, but fears friends will laugh at her. She could wear a straw hat from the Boden catalogue (called "Molly"), but only as a fashion statement. She can’t fan herself with a fan – she might draw attention to herself. She drinks Rocks elderflower, made very weak. She avoids fizzy drinks - there's something particularly corporate about the bubbles. And she can’t have an electric fan in her home. She is still convinced she's a rebel and a free spirit. When her husband Gideon cracks and buys some electric fans, she's still wailing "But a low setting will keep you cooler - and use less electricity - and save the planet - and think of the bills!" She's mortified that Gideon sits right next to the thing.

Working-class Sharon Definitely has one of those battery-powered hand fans and says “It’s really warm today!” (Upwards and Stow Crats say “hot” because they call a spade a spade.) She wears thong panties under white trousers.

Bohemian Arkana Upward (now Gardenchild) is thinking of building herself a Yemeni adobe house with thick clay walls. She'll call it the Adobe Abode. She drinks iced nettle tea made of real nettles.

Very Bohemian Rowena Upward carries a Japanese parasol and has a selection of beautiful fans. She installs a windcatcher on her roof and drinks Fanta.

Sharon and her friends go to the beach and get drunk and leave all their rubbish behind. Samantha and her friends have great fun picking it up and tutting. Thalia Upward goes beach litter-picking and makes a lot of posters and T shirts reading BAG YOUR LITTER AND TAKE IT HOME. Who knows, might work!

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