Jenni Murray

Jenni Murray

… is experiencing heat anxiety

While some Brits may enjoy basking in summer’s increasingly hot weather, all our columnist wants to do is cool down.

Summer. How we all look forward to those lazy, hazy days of relaxing in the garden in the skimpiest of garments, feeling the warm sun filling us with vitamin D.

There’ll be a lovely, gentle temperature of maybe 75⁰F (sorry, I don’t do centigrade, but I’ve looked it up and it’s 23⁰C) and it’s bringing nothing but comfort and warmth. The grass is green, the roses are blooming, all is well with the world. 

Heat, as we’ve been having recently, is a whole different ball game. In June, I wilted visibly in 90.14⁰F (32.3⁰C). The grass was brown and dry, the roses were exhausted, and I couldn’t leave the house for fear of being burned to a crisp.

The dogs couldn’t be walked because the pavements would burn their little feet. It was even uncomfortable to drive my new Mini Convertible with the roof down. Air-con in the car and powerful fans all over the house were the only saviours of my sanity. 

My heart sank when I read the projected temperatures for July and August would rise to 95⁰F (35⁰C) or even 104⁰F (40⁰C), as happened last year.

Is it because I’m a northerner, raised in chilly Barnsley, that I find heat so overwhelming? I remember with absolute clarity the first time I experienced it. My father had been working in Adana in Turkey and I was flown out to join them for the summer holiday before going to university. 

I had dressed smartly for the journey. A navy suit and crisp white shirt, tights and high heels. As the door of the plane opened, I was smothered by a suffocating blanket of humid heat such as I had never experienced before. I could hear cicadas twittering and see my mother across the tarmac. It was night. If it was this hot after the sun went down, how would I survive the day? I hated it. 

In the current climate, I am pretty well confined to barracks

I lasted, just, for the duration of the holiday, spending as much time in the sea as possible – the only way to cool down. As September came, I couldn’t wait to fly home, take up my place at the University of Hull and enjoy being cold and well wrapped up again.  

A trip to Israel between my second and third years filled me with enthusiasm for politics, history and ancient and modern architecture, but it was then I decided I could never face a hot climate again. I would never live anywhere where you would take a shower, dry off and immediately be wet again from sweating. No, it was not for me. 

Now, thanks, I assume, to global warming, my own country is making me suffer. In the current climate, I am pretty well confined to barracks, remembering days when it was a pleasure to strip down to my swimsuit and sunbathe in the garden or on a beach in Scarborough or Blackpool without feeling the sky was on fire. 

But my being a northerner theory doesn’t quite pan out. My younger son, Charlie, is a sun worshipper and he was brought up in the chill of the Peak District. He adored Australia and even contemplated living there, coming home with a glorious golden tan and stories of surfing in vivid blue, shark-free seas. 

Living in London now, he, like all of us, endures the roaring heat and stuffiness but seems to love it. Pictures ping into my phone of him sunbathing in his garden in 95⁰F (35⁰C). He gets no admiration from me, just, “Make sure you’re covered in factor 50 suncream.”

I doubt he takes any notice. Do 36-year-old men pay attention to their 73-year-old mothers? I think it’s unlikely and he does have a fabulous tan. It’s rather like mine was in the olden days.    

It feels as though these rising temperatures are only of concern to us all as individuals and it’s true that extreme heat can be dangerous.

We of the older generations are not used to carrying fancy water bottles around with us and making sure we’re hydrated. We need to learn that trick from the young ones. But we must also do our bit to preserve energy and water for the sake of the planet and those worldwide who are already suffering worse than we are.

Meanwhile, my current mantra, stolen from Gerald Durrell during his life in Corfu, is “Oh God, no, not another perfect day.”


Jenni Murray

Written by Jenni Murray