Monday, 6 July 2009

This fire

The tragic, grim and almost entirely incomprehensible ending of Ibsen’s Ghosts involves Oswald staring into the middle distance like an extra in Apocalypse Now and muttering ‘The sun, the sun’. It’s widely held to be something to do with going mad from syphilis. But think about it: he’s Norweigan. You don’t need to have a mentally debiliating sexually transmitted disease to start having horrors about the sun - you just need a slightly warm afternoon.


Similarly, London has recently been unreasonably, immorally, hot. It was the kind of heat that made respectable people start thinking that maybe yeah, rioting is a valid life choice, and hey, doesn’t Greenland have quite a low population density? To put it scientifically, God pushed the wrong button on the giant microwave in the sky, and we came out slightly overcooked.


It was generally reported that temperatures hit 31, or even 32 degrees on the Celsius/Centigrade/Centipede scale. This is, of course, a lie. From empirical evidence, I can assure you that the temperature was at least 50 degrees, but British thermometers aren’t made to go up that far. Beyond the obvious fact that walking around outside was like wading through sweaty tea, I can provide evidence by pointing at Wimbledon. It was proved by John Leslie that the boiling point of a Scotsman is 62 degrees*, and Andy Murray was clearly reaching his melting point on Friday.


As an aside for those with an interest in highland thermodynamics, James Dewar** never actually died: he simply sublimed (like Mary being assumed into heaven, but with chemical states) after pouring a bath that was slightly too hot. What’s more, the Trossachs actually used to be flat, but the ground went all wrinkly after 300 days of perpetual rain, which, intriguingly, is exactly what Mr Dewar’s feet would have done in that bath, had they not mysteriously and spectacularly transformed into a gas.


Anyway, all this hotness is clearly against the deal. Gaia, are you listening? I thought we had this sorted? You give us a temperate climate (compare, say, Iran, which is distinctly intemperate), and in exchange we are kind to cuddly animals, approve of hedgerows, and fetishise fields. This is how Britain works. We invented hill walking, for goodness’ sake, which was the nineteenth century equivalent of a power shower. We have so many music festivals that on one weekend in July Jarvis Cocker is having to perform in three different places at the same time, just so there are enough proper headliners to go around. Fortunately he’s a Time Lord, so he’ll probably manage somehow.


Of course we complain about the rain, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want it to exist. It’s the same as the tubes, Big Brother, or Michael Macintyre (with the obvious difference that we don’t want the tubes to stop). Yes, they’re irritating, but we’d rather have a good whinge than actually curse them out of existence. So bring back sensible temperatures, oh hippy goddess, our lady of tie-dye, or else I’m going to buy a digger. And I had to be dual-braked on my last driving test, so those trees had better start running.


-


* In his 1813 treatise An Experimental Enquiry into the Thermal Properties of a Gentleman of Scottish Tendencies.


* Vacuum flask, and related exciting but less useful stuff with hot and cold. Wrote about latent heat, which sounds like a Sharon Stone movie from the mid-’90s. Funny how many Scottish scientists spent a great deal of time worrying about temperature, isn’t it?

No comments:

Post a Comment