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Notes on a London heatwave

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
24 July 2021   |   2:05 am
According to Alexa, it is currently 28.3 degrees in my kitchen. According to Google, the ideal indoor temperature is 23 degrees.

According to Alexa, it is currently 28.3 degrees in my kitchen. According to Google, the ideal indoor temperature is 23 degrees. Yes, dear reader, in the UK, we are right in the middle of a heatwave. One of those things that happens every summer for about a week or two in these climes and still elicits the same reaction from the British public.

Last weekend kicked off the much anticipated British summer, which will likely last the whole of four and half days and end in a climactic thunderstorm, almost certain to soak those in flimsy footwear, white clothing and drop-top cars, while giving the rest of us much joy at their ill luck while mentally berating them for their ill-advised optimism in the British summer.

The horrors I’ve seen over the last few days will be enough to make me repent those weeks of moaning about the soggy summer we’d had until this week. You see, heat may be an all-consuming fact of life in Lagos, but here on this grim island, its’ a rarity, and much like other rarities, it is met with inappropriate reactions from the majority of the British public.

The following is just a selection of such wild reactions:
• Blokes with their tops off – worse blokes turned a deeper shade of lobster with a beer belly the size of a 7-month baby bump with their tops off.
• Many feet that have last been at the receiving end of a pedicure circa 1997 – as we cast off shoes in favour or sandals and flip flops. Broken nails, chipped nail varnish, dead skin on the soles… You name it, and you shall see it.
• Hemlines way too short and low cuts way too low– inadvertently always baring sunburnt thighs and cleavage.
• Families in their droves flocking to the nearest supermarket as if coupled up for Noah’s Ark, kids in tow, to clean up the barbeque and booze aisles – because what is a British summer without a British barbeque?

• Febrile fine young folk who may have gotten a room had it been a little cooler/wetter/greyer who have to get a room before the frolicking gets too R-rated.

• Unsightly tattoos in ungainly places which stay hidden from the public eye most part of the year, now so proudly on show that you cannot wait for the rain to come down quick enough. Imagine your aunty sporting paw prints on her boobs or your uncle with woman’s private parts staring for all to see right from the top of his beer belly.

• Middle-aged men, silver hair wind-swept, shades artfully balanced, chest hair sprawling out of the top of their unbuttoned baby blue shirts in drop top cars which look just about acceptable in a ‘heatwave’ – almost as acceptable as the perfect accessory, peroxide blonde haired, tanned, long-limbed woman half their age sitting on the passenger seat.

• Dining al fresco – because it is the hot, heady days of summer, anywhere under the sun is fair game, whether it is the first patch of grass to lay down your blanket or picnic on, secret gardens all across the city or outdoor urban dining. Who cares about the creepy crawlies and hay fever, right? Right, only until next day you find yourself breaking into a mad rash or sneezing up a storm.

• School kids in the least appropriate take on school uniforms – girls’ skirts folded at the waist to pull up the hems, neon bra straps showing under white cotton, boys’ ties cast aside, blazers all balled up at the bottom of the school bag, sleeves rolled up, buttons undone – hanging out in public parks or outside corner shops.

• Paddling pools in the backyards that are bigger than a postage stamp – if in London, you should know that gardens are almost as rare as heatwaves, and those lucky enough to have one, once a year, fill up a paddling pool for some family fun. By the time the rain has come down, it’s either a deflated shell of its old self discarded at the bottom of the garden or filled up with rainwater waiting to be discovered once again before the end of the summer holidays.

• Those who left the house in the morning feeling super cool and summery in their white ensembles doing the walk of shame home with sweat patches under arms, green grass stain on their backs and possibly chocolate spill down the front as they couldn’t slurp their ice cream fast enough.

• Pockets of people hanging outside pubs sipping on Pimm’s and white wine till the last crumbles of twilight, in varying states of drunkenness – often spotted the next day sporting a hangover, a sunburn and clutching on to a box of Nurofens for dear life.

• Barbecues – if you are anywhere in England, as sure as night follows day, as soon as the sun is out and the temperature gauge hits mid-20s, there will be that party music blaring from suburban gardens and grilled chicken smell wafting in the air. If you’ve left the invites or the shopping too late, the best you can do is score an invite to a neighbour’s or lament your state of solitary dining sans barbecue, while trying to Shazam your neighbour’s Afrobeats playlist (inspired by a true story!)

• More smiles, more selfies, more spur of the moment fun – because us Brits only realise, when the sun comes out, life is actually rather good fun.

So, there you go, while heat is commonplace in Lagos, if you visit London during a heatwave, the chances are you will see at least half the people on this list, if not more, some time or another. Yet, not to worry, eventually, in a few days’ time, heatwave hedonism will cool down, literally, under the torrential rain, and you’ll be left wondering what Bacchanal debauchery had taken a hold of the otherwise stiff upper-lipped Brits.