Wednesday 3 August 2022

Beat the Heat

A photosensitive friend reports that, when she carries an umbrella on a torrid sunny day, she gets barracked: “Oi, look, she thinks it’s raining!” (That's Audrey Hepburn in the picture.)

In the sun, my mother wore dark glasses, a hat, a scarf, and a long-sleeved shirt and didn’t care about being thought eccentric, but she was mortified when I wore white gloves to protect my sunburned hands at an al fresco lunch party. (She was still bringing it up decades later.)

Will global warming mean the Brits carry parasols and flutter fans? Or will they just be too embarrassed? Whenever I use a fan, on a bus or at a concert, people nearby say “Oh, that’s lovely! Send it this way!” But they never pick up a fan themselves. It may need a first-person article: "I carried a parasol and fanned myself in public and survived". 

For years we thought that the old air conditioner in our room was inoperable because there was no control for it until last summer when we did a bit of a clear-out and found the on-off switch behind some files. It works fine. We sat sweating through summer after summer. (Lawyer Adam Wagner)

In a 70s office block (now demolished), we sweltered. We couldn’t open the huge, heavy windows as there was no way to stop them slamming shut, and besides, all our papers would get blown about. We had electric fans, and sprays for watering the plants – we directed the spray at the fan – bliss! We also ate lunch on the roof.

Annual hot weather reminder that if you’ve got sash windows and open them equally at top and bottom you can enjoy some Victorian “air conditioning” that ventilates and removes heat. (@jester Jun 9 2023)  

Awnings fixed above all your windows create a cool temperature inside the room. And they protect your shop-window display from the sun. Time to bring them back! (Via @DarrenMcLean_uk, 2023)

There are several books on “dry gardening”, such as Gardening in a Changing Climate by Ambra Edwards. Plant shrubs and trees for shade, and install beach umbrellas, a gazebo and a large paddling pool. Hydrate plants with “grey” water – bath, washing-up.

Paper fans can be bought online, or in Chinatown. Chinese paper umbrellas are available online. Or  why not a colourful golf umbrella? Or, if you’re a real rebel, one with a firm’s logo? Or a child’s brolly with cat’s ears? To find something like a traditional parasol, try searching for "pagoda umbrella" or "steampunk umbrella". You can get a long-handled parasol from Move Dance. They have lace umbrellas too, as do bridal suppliers. Hello, street-corner purveyors of shawls, hats and umbrellas – why not stock some parasols?

Men: instead of 3/4 cargo shorts worn at half-mast, why not a cool, floor-length kaftan? And get a short back and sides, shave your head, or sport a man-bun.

Women: an updo is cooler. As are short hair and a cotton sports bra. Thank goodness buffet dresses (long, big, loose, ruffled) are popular.

All genders: go for loose cotton or linen. Non-binary or genderless clothes can be found online.

For the home, current advice is to install outdoor shutters (shut them for coolness in summer, warmth in winter). Also to shut windows and close curtains... I’ll still be opening all my windows – I’m lucky, I’m five floors up. I’ve been securing them with tie-belts – I really must get some “casement stays”. It makes sense to close curtains where the sun is streaming in – and it’ll save your upholstery and pictures from bleaching.

Put a tray full of ice cubes in front of the fan.

Fill the bath with cold water and leave it – you can splash or paddle occasionally.

Hang wet sheets over windows.

Leave internal doors open – and shut them in the winter.

Don’t keep your crystal ball on a windowsill – it can refract the light and even cause a fire! Watch out for magnifying mirrors, too.

Drink a lot – water and fruit juice with ice. Keep a jug or bottle of water in the fridge.

Architects, builders: design large windows that can open (and be securely propped open). On both sides of the building, for through draughts. Install natural aircon in the form of windcatchers. If steel-and-glass offices and flats can have large windows, why can't new houses modelled on Victorian cottages? And for large public buildings, three times as many women's toilets as gents', and some gender-neutral cubicles. When a venue has to employ "toilet queue co-ordinators", you know something is wrong.

Councils – plant trees.

More here, and links to the rest.

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