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The blistering English heatwave

Yesterday, after a walk in the warm weather, I went into a pub. I am going to name and shame here – it was the King William IV in Chigwell. It’s a nice place with fancy decor, an elaborate menu and London prices. I attempted to order a pint of lager.

However, beer was only coming out of the taps in a little dribble. One of the staff members vanished for a few minutes, returned, shook his head to one of his colleagues, and came over to me and said something along the lines of “Sorry, we are having a little bit of trouble with the draught beer due to the temperature in the cellar. This means that the beer is not coming through to the taps. It’s the hot weather, see”.

The temperature was a horrific 32 degrees Celsius – 89 degrees Fahrenheit. As an Australian, I would describe this as fairly warm but not especially hot. In England, though, it becomes quite unpleasant, due to the lack of any infrastructure for dealing with it, for instance the ability to provide beer when temperatures go over 30. (Cold drinks in newsagents and other shops are normally kept in strange cooling devices that are open to the air, rather than in proper refrigerators with closed doors. These lose the ability to keep drinks cold when the weather gets hot – ie when you most want your drink to be cold). Buildings simply aren’t designed to keep heat out, nor are they designed to be easily cooled when it gets in.

I could just say that the English inability to deal with warm but not especially hot weather is simply a consequence of their not hot climate, but then one also must think about the English inability to deal with cool but not especially cold weather, their inability to deal with weather that is a bit wet but not especially stormy, and indeed to deal with weather that is dry but not especially droughty.

Seriously, though, a pub that cannot provide beer when the temperature gets over 30 belongs in an Australian comedy sketch.

73 comments to The blistering English heatwave

  • bloke in spain

    Or indeed more than an inch of snow or the annual surprise of autumn leaf-fall. That’s before one starts on the disturbances the inhabitants visit on themselves.
    It’s after one leaves the country one starts realising most of the prized Brit characteristics, resourcefulness, good humour, the valuing of freedom, are complete bollocks. Self delusion’s the most prevalent one.

  • Deep Lurker

    As someone who grew up in the suburbs north of Detroit and who now lives in the suburbs north of Chicago, I’d call 89 F “hot weather, but not the hottest weather.” Likewise I’d call 10 F (-12C) “cold weather, but not the coldest weather.”

    More generally, I’d call the climate here “real weather, but not extreme weather.” I’m aware of places with greater seasonal variations, as well as places with much smaller ones.

  • RRS

    Well now, it’s back to OZ !

  • terence patrick hewett

    Been in loads of pubs in the heatwave and not one had the cold beer off. British weather is not to be relied upon: in most countries when in summer it gets hot and stays hot; in winter when it gets cold it stays that way. Not here: summer can be like winter and winter like summer and it can change on the hour. Never go out without a hat; you don’t need a brolly.

  • Mr Ed

    IIRC a few years back trains stopped running somewhere in England because the rails buckled in around 32C. Even in shambolic Portugal, the trains run in fierce summer heat, in late summer 1985 I took the Lisbon to Paris train and it still ran through a forest fire that was burning right up to the tracks and we trundled through the smoke. mind you, the day after, the Porto-Paris train that connects with the Lisbon train had a head-on and killed around 150 people.

  • Ljh

    I suspect that another national trait is pride in being “rubbish” at everything, saves the effort of being seen to try too hard.

  • Vinegar Joe

    I found it to be much the same in the Netherlands. And houses in the Summer were horrible.

  • Regional

    30°C is pleasant.

  • Regional

    tph,
    Melbum in Astraya prides it’s self on having four seasons in one day.

  • Charlie Farley

    This means that the beer is not coming through to the taps. It’s the hot weather, see”.

    I think he was pulling your leg.

  • It’s was up to 33C here in the Netherlands yesterday and the Dutch coped about as well as the Brits would in the same circumstances, wandering around sweating and complaining about the heat and no air-conditioning to be seen anywhere.

    The beer was still pouring and still cold, so I suppose that is a plus.

    It’s a bit cooler this morning.

  • John B

    The anecdote takes me back many years when I worked one very warm Summer in a pub.

    Beer that is not hand-lever pumped is either drawn by an electric pump or pushed by top pressure (CO2) out of a large tank or cask.

    In the pub where I worked, the beer was pressurised and as it got warm inside the building so did the pipes carrying the beer. A gaseous liquid releases its gas the warmer it gets.

    The beer had quite a way to travel from the cellar to the various bars in the pub by which time it had warmed up and so when it came out of the tap it was nearly all froth. It was metered to half pint deliveries, so we would fill several pint glasses with this froth before the beer cooled the pipes enough to come out liquid. We then let the froth settle and subsequent customers got this topped up with the by now, liquid beer…. if they did not see us doing it; if they did they would usually refuse it and demand a fresh pint be drawn before their very eyes.

    The problem was greatest at start of the session or if no beer had been delivered for a while.

    As this caused waste and adverse customer reaction, very quickly ‘flash-coolers’ were fitted under the bars so that beer was cooled prior to reaching the tap and came out liquid.

    I assumed these days, most pubs would have these as it is hardly a new or unknown problem.

  • nemesis

    My sister lives in a house built in the 13th century. Smallish windows and a nice thick thatched roof. It is remarkably efficient in all weather – cool in summer and warm in winter. These days we seem to be obsessed with building glass towers. Perhaps there is something to be learned from old technology.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I ask in honesty, not as a joke: I thought the British preferred their beer and ale warm, not chilled. At least that used to be the stereotype around here. But the conversation causes me to wonder: Is this incorrect? If so, was it ever correct?

    Thanks. :>)

  • Mr Ed

    Julie: Warm beer yes, lager chilled. I believe that Michael isn’t from round these parts, IYKWIM.

  • Stuart

    To be fair julie it was never meant to be “warm” but Cellar temperature which would be about 10-13 Celsius iirc, so warmer than chilled but still cool.

  • Michael Jennings

    I’m not from originally round these parts, but I have come to enjoy a traditional (cellar temperature) English ale from time to time. On a warm summer day when I have been out in the heat, though, I’d generally still prefer a cold lager, though.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ah. Thanks for clarifying, you guys. Heh…Provincial Hick that I am, I prefer my beer icy cold in a frozen glass. With no head, so as to keep the maximum tingle in the drink. Same for ginger ale (soda), back in the day when it was still gingery in flavor and actually carbonated. (Nowadays it tastes like wildly overdiluted Kool-Aid; flavor, if any, unascertainable. SNARK.) Ginger beer, now that’s different. Still quite gingery, but at $ 95 or some such thing per 2-oz bottle (I never hyperbolize) who can afford to indulge. We’re still talking non-alcoholic, by the way.

    Maybe I’ll ask for a 4-pack for my Christmas present. Then they won’t have to (nor be able to afford to!) get me anything else for the whole next year. :>)))

  • The last toryboy

    When I go to the pub the ale is room temperature, the lager is cold. In hot weather lager is definitely the more refreshing, but ale generally tastes a lot better, plus you never quite know what you’re going to get with ale as there are so many types, few of which are on tap for very long.

    If I was somewhere hot it’d be lager all the way. But the UK is rarely hot…

  • Julie near Chicago

    My dream of heaven is to live in the UK. Cool and plenty of rain. Sigh! Of course, first you folks have to do something about your Government. And then come over here and do the same thing to ours. :>)

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    Dear Julie, sounds nice, but Britain still gets snow! (The AGWers are trying to outlaw it, to no avail.) Which govmint do you mean? The real Govmint in Brussels, or the puppets in London?
    How about going to the isle of Mann? Paul thinks it’s a nice place, and i think the taxes are low.

  • Andrew Duffin

    It wouldn’t appear to be sensible business, to equip oneself – at considerable cost – to deal with conditions that don’t actually occur very often. A business that did so would find itself at a disadvantage, due to the higher costs incurred. Its competitors might clean up by selling the product cheaper.

    So it’s a sensible decision to decide where your trade-off is, and go with it.

    Naturally, in more extreme climates the trade-off will lie elsewhere.

    I find it a bit odd that such things apparently need explaining, here of all places.

  • SC

    Andrew: no it’s just general crapness. Every time I go to some summer event, whether a sports event, a music festival, or whatever, in the UK you can bet that you’ll be faced with a scorching hot day and warm drinks. Every time I go into a UK shop on a hot day you find the drinks aren’t properly cold. British drink purveyors seem constantly surprised that there should be hot days in summer, and surprised that their fridges are not very good at cooling drinks down on hot days. Sometimes they even seem surprised at the very idea that you should want, in a hot day, a drink that is colder than lukewarm (and lukewarm Coke on a hot day is not very nice).

    Other places that have similar climates have no trouble dealing with this: Tasmania, for example.

    >A business that did so would find itself at a disadvantage, due to the higher costs incurred. Its competitors might clean up by selling the product cheaper.

    But if the demand is for cold drinks, then selling the product cheaper doesn’t provide an advantage if your product is warm and your competitor’s is cold.

    But you might ultimately be kind-of right: the problem might be that the British public just don’t demand cold drinks, they’re so used to putting up with drinking warm drinks on hot days that they just never complain and they just put up with it (it’s part of the furniture), and in that case the sellers have no great incentive to improve (especially at an event where there’s not much competition), although you’d still think that there is a market for cold drinks here for a savvy-enough businessman. This is something that I think about every summer — it seems to be a gap in the market just crying out for improvement.

    (Actually, to be fair, there has been a gradual improvement in this matter over the last decade in the UK, despite what I said earlier sometimes you do come across a place these days that has ice-cold drinks, though why they don’t advertise this fact more I don’t know).

  • Rob

    English beer should be cool, not warm or cold. The colder the beer, the less taste.

    The new trains on my route are air conditioned but cannot cope with it being “too hot”, ie over about 26 degrees. They seem to work best at about 17 degrees, just when you really need air con.

  • Rational Plan

    @SC you exaggerate.

    You are ignoring simple problem of time taken to cool a drink in hot weather compared to the turnover of drink sales. In a small corner shop it’s nearly allways possible to get an ice cold drink, as some of those cans sit in the fridge for days. Meanwhile at a busy rail station it may need refilling two or three times a day. Since it takes an hour or so for the drinks to get properly cold, there’s a good chance the drink will be only slightly cold.

    The bigger the venue the warmer the drinks. Most clubs or permanent concerts will get around this by giving you a cup of ice with your drink, but that’s not likely to happen at a temporary venue.

    The best set up I’ve seen is at some service stations where there is a wall of glass doors, where all refrigerated goods are kept. On closer inspection you see it’s in fact a giant cold room with shelves facing the glass doors with the drinks on it and stacks of spare stock sitting in the cold room. No danger of warm drinks here. But the reality is such an arrangement can only work with high turnover of stock and where the land and hence notional rents are cheap. So great for road side petrol stations on major highways, not so likely for small retailers in airports or train stations where the rental eye wateringly high.

  • I came here to say what Andrew Duffin already said. :)

    But SC has a point when he says, “the British public just don’t demand cold drinks”. Bill Bryson was complaining at least as far back as 2000 that the British view ice as a luxury item, and it’s still true. I insist on having it on tap at home, but I have friends who say that the ice maker “takes up too much room in the freezer”.

  • SC

    >@SC you exaggerate.

    Rational Plan, my parents ran a shop in the 1980s in Australia. Even back then it wasn’t hard to keep your drinks cold even on really hot days when the drinks were flying out of the fridges (and as it was Tasmania hot days were not the norm). Everywhere else with similar climates can handle this. Britain can’t. (For a start, don’t use fridges that don’t have doors. And apply some forward thinking to handle this issue, rather than just be as crap as you were last summer).

  • llamas

    Me and mrs llamas have often joked about how the UK has only 7 ice cubes to go round, and you all have to share.

    Here in Michigan, it’s not unknown to have a 10-day stretch where the temperature never drops below 75°F, day or night. And yet every two-bit gas station and party store has a mass of beverages that are ice-cold, plus every gas station sells cubed ice or solid blocks – 20#, 50#, as much as you want – for pocket change. A store that allowed itself to run out of cold beverages or ice would suffer from a quick and complete loss of custom.

    It’s a matter of will. The ice sold in bags or blocks is made in a central plant and distributed in refrigerated trucks to huge bunkers, which usually sit outside. But all is so well-insulated that they take no more power to keep the ice frozen than a small domestic refrigerator. Same with the coolers inside the store – double- and triple-wall glass doors and massive insulation. You can tell how well it works by the fact that, even on 100° days with 95% RH, condensation never forms on the cooler doors.

    English bitter beers and ales should be served cool – 45-55°F – else they taste insipid and lose a lot of the refreshing effect. But there’s no other excuse for serving warm beverages on hot days. It’s all down to a peculiar British mindset that says it’s somehow honourable and ‘authentic’ to do without. It’s part of the ‘mustn’t grumble’, ‘make-do-and-mend’, ‘don’t go getting ideas’ culture that has its roots all the way back in WW2. Chas and Dave made fun of people who ordered short drinks with ice, 40 years ago, and nothing has changed.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Richard Thomas

    When I was growing up, they didn’t even put the drinks in chillers or refrigerators. You got it as it came off the shelf.

    Uphill both ways as well.

  • llamas

    A shelf? You were lucky! We ‘ad to pick up our drinks from a puddle of molten lead! In ‘t middle o”t road! Ah, but we were ‘appy!

    Did anyone here see the Positively Last Appearance? It must have been something to see.

    llater,

    llamas

  • I find myself wondering what the point of this article was. Samizdata has traditionally been a libertarian political blog, not a venue for slightly mean-spirited and ill-informed criticisms of one country by someone from another, to be followed by a list of me-too comments. Colour me disappointed.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nick bfMG,

    Wot! You think I can’t handle snow? I am a Child of the Frozen North! We finally had a respectable (not huge, but at least respectable) amount of snow here Near Chicago last winter, some days when the high was < -10˚F (Sorry, I don't do Centigrade, it's a Matter of Conscience), at least two when the high was -17˚F (well, at least 1, but I think 2) ….

    I consider it one of the inevitable Downsides of Life that in Britain I would have to pay for coolth and rain by being cheated in the matter of snowstorms and serious thunderstorms.

    On the other hand, if in the UK there's serious heat (anything over about 83˚ and nothing to drink but warm Diet Pepsi…and little in the way of Air Conditioning…. :(

    (Not tornadoes. I don't do tornadoes. And they have sometimes missed me by less than a mile — seriously. Part of the price of living where we have decent thunderstorms.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Um … Graham … even libertarians enjoy a mild chuckle once in awhile if they think they won’t be overheard, and as far as I know joshing teammates’ joshing one another for their idiosyncracies is well-established, respectable sport.

    And there is actually information, admittedly not of the sky-is-falling we-must-remake-Civilization-NOW! sort, lurking behind the jests.

    Now, it’s possible that you meant to be joking yourself and I am being hypersensitive: it’s been known to happen. If so, I apologize.

    Michael — For the record, I found your posting entertaining, although I should note that “very warm” cuts off at 89˚F. Anything over that counts as Too Darn Hot.

    And the ensuing discussion entertaining (and interesting) as well. :>)

  • Vinegar Joe

    Well…..I live on a small island in Micronesia and today it’ll be in the high 80s (around 31C)……..I’m filling up the cooler with ice and Asahi Pacific Blue beer. Going to get a couple of mangoes from a tree in my yard and then walk about 60 meters to the beach. :^)

  • I find myself wondering what the point of this article was. Samizdata has traditionally been a libertarian political blog, not a venue for slightly mean-spirited and ill-informed criticisms of one country by someone from another, to be followed by a list of me-too comments. Colour me disappointed.

    404 – Sense of humour not found.

    0x80020afd – Charisma bypassed, please see your medical practitioner for a replacement.

  • Jim

    How often in the UK do you need super cooled drinks? A few days a year if that. I’ve played cricket on ‘summer’ days where a hot cup of soup would have been more in order than iced drinks. For 99% of the time extremes of heat, or cold , or rain, or wind do not affect the UK. Ergo spending fortunes on every shop having ice makers, or every car having a set of snow chains or hurricane proofing you house is not required 99% of the time, and it would be utterly economically inefficient to do so.

    If you don’t like it, sod off back to wherever it gets regularly hot, or cold, or wet, or windy and feel as smug as you like about the arrangements made for countries where those sort of conditions occur on a regular and prolonged basis.

  • OK, I’ll say it: market failure, need regulation.

  • Julie near Chicago

    JG:

    Succinct, crystal-clear, to the point, and hilarious. :>)))!!!

    Alisa:

    Regulation, Fridgeration — Gubberm’t, act now! ….

    (Couldn’t help it, I get these fits from time to time… )

  • Julie,
    Well we have some pretty impressive electrical storms of late…

    “Sorry, I don’t do Centigrade, it’s a Matter of Conscience), at least two when the high was -17˚”

    Well, I think in Kelvin… From my experience large chunks of the developed World struggle with unusual weather for them. I was in Atlanta (’97?) and it snowed quite a lot. Everything stopped. Now the problem is maybe not economic to tackle for such unusual events.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, Nick, if Timmy and the Missus don’t object I’m always happy to accept an invitation when the weather is promising. :>)

    I don’t like Kelvin…it gets awful cold, lower down. :>(

  • Julie near Chicago

    Anyway, everybody knows there are two sorts of normal weather at any given location L on the globe: Nw-sub-c, or the weather when you were a kid, and Nw-sub-n, the weather you think you’ve been having for the last five years. Anything else is an Anomalous Climatic Event and is the clear and obvious result of Catastrophic Human-Caused Boregal Worming, except when it is the clear and obvious result of Hell’s freezing over, which would happen if the Bore et al. ceased emitting hot air.

  • Mr Ed

    The trouble with Kelvin is that there is zero point to it.

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    When about to make a joke, you should warn us, Mr.ed, so we’ll know to laugh at the end. Also, in this age of litigation, you should have vetted it for pc-ness. All the people called Kelvin are going to feel slighted, and might choose to sue you. And have you forgotten the Zero aeroplane? I’ll bet you’ve ticked off the Japanese, as well! And any Japanese person called Kelvin would be doubly offended! (Especially if he’s in the aeroplane business!)
    You’ve almost started WW3 with one careless remark! Let’s hope we all learn something from this sorry episode.

  • Mr Ed

    Nick,confession time. I once shared a house with a Japanese professor who was on a sabbatical in England. He cooked us a Christmas dinner of chicken with a soy sauce and spring onion dip. I did actually say ”This chicken’s rubbery” and he said “Thank you, Edo” (He could not said ‘Ed’ as every sound that doesn’t end in an ‘n’ – Nissan, Datsun etc. – he had to end in a vowel sound, but I thought initially that he was making a pun about Edo.) I do have a friend called Kelvin, he will survive any hurt.

    The good professor once reminisced about his flying model aircraft as a youngster, I asked if that wasn’t expensive and he looked surprised and said no, and I then asked ‘But didn’t you crash them into model boats?’.

    And I wouldn’t dignify my efforts at humour by calling them jokes.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, Mr Ed, I disagree with Nick-G. You should warn us when you’re about to let fly with a joke, or a reeeaaaallllllyyy dreadful pun [any reeaallyy good pun being, by definition, dreadful], so that we can be sure we have swallowed our coffee or cocoa and have set down the mug before we read on. Otherwise, at best you have to turn a fan on the keyboard for 24 hours. :>)))!!!

    I do think it was sporting of your Japanese professor friend not to wring your neck though. LOLOL!!!!

  • If you don’t like it, sod off back to wherever

    When I don’t like a post on someone-else’s blog, it is usually me who feels the need to sod off. But it must be just me.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “Here in Michigan, it’s not unknown to have a 10-day stretch where the temperature never drops below 75°F, day or night. ”

    Quite.

    In the UK, that would be a thousand-year exception.

    So it’s not worth budgetting for.

  • During the UK Summer heatwave of 1976, the temperature reached 26.7 °C (80 °F) every day between 22 June and 16 July. For 15 consecutive days from 23 June to 7 July inclusive, temperatures reached 32.2 °C (90 °F) somewhere in England.

    Furthermore, five days saw temperatures exceed 35 °C (95 °F). On 28 June, temperatures reached 35.6 °C (96.1 °F) in Southampton, the highest June temperature recorded in the UK.

    So, Mr. Duffin, hardly a thousand-year exception and this was just one year I picked out because I was there (albeit as a 9-year old kid), but hyperbole aside, I agree with your viewpoint that we should design our infrastructure around normal weather, not the extremes.

    A good measure for this sort of thing is the 3-Sigma Rule, defining the normal boundaries that should be expected most of the time.

    3 Sigma Rule

  • The good professor once reminisced about his flying model aircraft as a youngster, I asked if that wasn’t expensive and he looked surprised and said no, and I then asked ‘But didn’t you crash them into model boats?’.

    And I wouldn’t dignify my efforts at humour by calling them jokes.

    Are you kidding??? That is well north of hilarious!

  • stuart

    Just as an aside here, but the reason why UK shops use those open fronted fridges (or multi-decks as they are known) rather than ones with doors is that whilst they cost marginally more to run and they arnt as effective in very hot temperatures they do generate higher sales, so the trade off is that you annoy the odd Australian in July (and as everyone else uses them he cant go some place else) but you sell more across the year.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    I’ve not been abroad since I was a child, until last year when I went to Berlin. It reached 36 degrees C, which is by far the hottest temperature I had ever encountered.

    It has often been observed by Russians that the UK doesn’t know how to handle the cold. We dress inappropriately and are often left shivering through a lack of forward planning. It is equally true that we don’t know how to handle the heat. The second the sun comes out, Brits are running around in shorts and t-shirts. That’s fine for the low 20’s, but when the temp starts creeping toward the 30’s, that’s a recipe for dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunburn (even if you’ve applied sun cream).

    When I was in Berlin I tried to take a leaf out of the Arabs’ book. It’s not just Islamic law that dictates a desert culture cover up in the sun – it’s practicality. I wore full length baggy linen trousers and shirt. I wore a hat. I drank about 1 litre an hour of water in the peak of the day’s heat.

    Aside going from the bathroom every 30 minutes (which I might add helps vent body heat as the air temp approaches body internal temp), I was fine. I saw many a tourist flashing a lot of skin who looked like they were suffering though. Many of the Berliners themselves were dressed poorly for the weather as well – although I believe 36 degrees was far warmer than they are used to themselves.

  • I often wonder about that Arabs’ book myself. It does make sense to cover yourself if you have a very fair skin, to prevent sunburn. But I’m not sure that it makes your actual body temperature lower – maybe. In Israel, the only people who completely cover themselves up are the Bedouins and the Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Most people, both Jews and Arabs wear short pants or skirts, and short sleeves. (Arab women are an exception where the family is religious: you will see men dressed lightly, with women covered almost from head to toe). That was true even back when AC was not nearly as ubiquitous here as it is now.

    Oh, and drinks, including beer, are always cold :-)

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Well Alisa, I’m Scottish so my normal level of tan is probably somewhere on a par with the crew of a nuclear submarine who’ve just returned from a 9 month tour without surfacing once ;)

    Seriously though, bare arms and legs aren’t so much of an issue if you lather them with factor 50, but a bare head in direct sunlight when the temperature is in the 30s is a real good way to make yourself ill. We see temperatures approaching that so rarely many Brits don’t seem to figure it out until it is too late.

  • Oh yes, I definitely agree about the head.

  • Sigivald

    “You do have some beer, don’t you?”

    “Of course, sir. This is a pub, isn’t it?”

  • I went on a walking tour of Ramallah a couple of months ago. It was reasonably hot day, although it is undoubtedly considerably hotter now. The rhythm of this tour involved being taken for a walk and shown things for as long as it took to get hot, and then taken somewhere indoors and cool – a cafe, a sweet shop, a museum, an art gallery etc – for about the same period of time, and then this was repeated. Tea and/or coffee – in several cases complimentary tea or coffee – was served to us in each of these places, and in all of them there were comfortable sofas on which to sit down. It’s clearly seen as foolish to spend long in the sun, and as soon as you get hot you should sit down, have refreshments, and become comfortable before you do it again. This is in contrast to my native Australia, where we attempt to work and eat on a northern European relatively cool climate schedule despite this not being really appropriate for the climate. This is not as silly as it once was – when indoors we generally have air conditioning and when outdoors we wears hats and lots of sunscreen – but (unlike warm beer) that is one aspect of British culture that we have not really put behind us.

  • But in the developed world most people work indoors anyway, regardless of the local climate. Those that still have to work outdoors (such as farmers or construction workers) behave in the way they always did – which is to say, as you described in Ramallah. Plus, with the advent of electricity, more people can work outdoors during the nighttime. How many do I have no idea, but I do know that a lot of road repairs are done at night (for reasons other than weather though).

  • I live in north Texas, so heat… yuck. And I was born, and lived in South Africa for over 30 years, but I still can’t get used to the heat here. (Johannesburg is many thousands of feet above sea level, ergo little humidity; Texas summers are like walking around in a sauna.) Of course, all drinks are served cold — I usually have a glass half-filled with ice before adding the drink (and no, the drink isn’t diluted, because I finish it long before the ice has melted). A goodly proportion of my military service was in Southwest Africa (Namibia), and the less said about that heat, the better.

    The most unpleasant heat I’ve ever encountered, though, was an early September in Paris, a decade or so ago. Connie and I found ourselves walking around the streets in a “daisy” pattern: a brief exploratory loop for half an hour, then back to the (blessedly air-conditioned) hotel to cool down for an hour, before venturing out for another quick circular stroll in a different direction. Repeat until evening, when the temperature would drop appreciably. Small wonder the Parisians generally get the hell out of the city in August.

    Cool-weather locales tend not to be able to handle the occasional heat spell very well — Britain is not too different from any other northern European city in my experience — and one could argue that it’s not worth the cost and effort to deal with a temperature anomaly that is generally of brief duration anyway. Here in Texas, where the outside summer temperature will run to well over a hundred, without cooling much below 95 at night, dealing with the June-October heat isn’t optional (much as a city like London or Chicago has to deal with lengthy frigid winter temperatures). In contrast, our houses don’t handle extreme cold snaps at all well — pipes freeze and burst, all that good stuff — just as European houses don’t handle the summer’s heat.

    I actually think that one of the reasons that Europeans take global warming / climate change more seriously than we Septics do is that the effects of prolonged summer heat are more dangerous — deadly, even — whereas we just call it a “long summer” and shrug it off.

    It’s even worse when it snows here — four years out of the past decade it’s done so — and Texans laugh and say, “If this is global warning, can we have some more, please?” The much-heralded “polar vortex” is not feared, but welcomed south of the Red River — as Connie says, “If I bake it some cookies, can it stay for longer?” The last one (last week, as it happened), brought our high-90s/low 100s daily temps down to the low/mid 80s. There was much rejoicing in the land…

  • I went on a walking tour of Ramallah a couple of months ago…

    As one does when one is Michael Jennings :-D

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    Julie, another reason to adopt metric units is that the joke, “Having a room-temperature IQ”, is so much more likely to raise a laugh. 32C is about 90F. If you use Farenheit scale, it is not really an insult, especially on really hot days!
    (If the world did adopt GUS, the freezing point of water would be 99UDs, so talk of room-temperature IQs would be praise! Still, better for interstellar diplomacy.)
    I usually get a laugh by claiming that I once took an IQ test, and the results were negative.

  • Richard Thomas

    It frequently gets close to triple digits here in the summer and I rarely cover my head. My hair seems to do an adequate job as nature intended. The rare times I do wear something, the intent is to keep the sun from my eyes.

  • llamas

    Andrew Duffin – you completely missed the point I was trying to make. Maybe I was unclear.

    The message is that, even in places where elevated temperatures for extended periods are more-normal, providing cold beverages and ice is absolutely no problem – it’s a matter of will, not technology.

    In somewhat-more-temperate places like the UK, it would be even-more-simple to do. Maybe it doesn’t get as hot there as it does other places, but I think you would agree that, even in the UK, there are plenty of days when a cold beverage would be welcome. But instead, we get this wittering about how it doesn’t get very warm in the UK very often and so there’s ‘no need’ for this sort of capability. And the Brits continue to endure warm beverages on hot days, and share ice cubes.

    I was also there for the heatwave of 1976. It was a scorcher. But I can recall plenty of other summer days in the UK where a cold drink with plenty of ice in it would have been welcome, but was simply not available. I can still recall my wonderment at my first stay in a US motel, with the traditional icemaker on every level, from which you could haul away ice by the bucketful if you desired, all at no charge. One person could take as many free ice cubes, for their own use, as I had ever seen in the UK in the wild in my entire life.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Rational Plan

    But UK hotels are much more civilised. Even the meanest B&B will have a mini electric kettle with tea
    coffee and some biscuits.

    Most pubs and bars these days have proper ice machines, rather than the little insulated tub with a couple of cubes. I usually have to tell people not put some much ice in a glass as I actually want more than a thimble full of coke in my glass. London bars are the worst for this.

  • John W

    Shops always used used to have fridges with doors but they seemed to disappear overnight.
    The open ones cannot possibly be more energy-efficient if they are battling against the warm air all the time. So why?

    My guess is that Premier (who appear to have taken over every corner shop in Britain) got the new ones in a job lot and since they have no competition couldn’t care less whether we like it or not.

    The free market triumphs again

  • William the Conker

    The free market triumphs again

    Wish we had one so we could put that to the test :-(

  • Russ in TX

    You and me both, William.

    Actually, Kim’s half right. Texas actually gets cold. Brutal, bitter, windy cold, straight from the arctic. We handle that just fine. But we don’t do a good job at all with is rain. If we get six drops of rain, the “Wet Death” falls on our cities and everybody rushes home at once in order to stand in bumper-to-bumper traffic terrified that they’ll hydroplane if they drive over 35 mph.

  • stef

    Russ and Kim are each only about 1/10 right. Texas has several different climate regions and they vary quite a bit in each season.

    Always thought one of the best things about the UK was the lack of ice. You can drink a lot more a lot faster if it isn’t overly cold. Not that I’d do that in a decent pub, but this is important if you’re actually working outside in warmish-humid (FL panhandle) or hot-dry-dusty (N Texas). We used to mix Coke or Gatorade 1:4 to 1:5 with hose water at construction sites and drink it 2qt in a go several times a day.

  • Richard Thomas

    Another thing that occurs to me is the lack of free refills in the UK. More ice means less of the product you’re actually paying for in most cases.

    This ignores the fact that mostly what you’re paying for is unfrozen ice with a dash of syrup and CO2, of course ;)

  • stuart

    Jown W, and Llamas,

    I own a small shop (with chillers with doors) I also do business with Booker(who are the owners of the premier symbol group) Booker do not own the stores they just supply vendor support in return for supply contracts. As i said above the difference between multi-decks (the open fronted fridges) and fridges with a door is that you sell more with a multi-deck, its that simple, in most instances a shop open all year will have higher profits on chilled beverages sold from a multi-deck than they will from a fridge with a door, further they have less points of mechanical failure (no door) and you don’t have to allow for the door swing in your shop layout, also there cheaper to put in as a continuous run so you can get more shelf space (depending on the design of multi-deck).

    Thats why shops use multi-decks, including all the major nationals in the UK (Tesco et al) and in my experience at least all the supermarkets in Upstate New York, Sweden and Serbia, for not just there chilled beverages but for every chilled item they sell.

    The reason we don’t use them is we sell speciality beers to be in the summer (where seasonal) and as such the requirements are its cold, also there too wide to fit through our door ways.

  • Michael Jennings

    Another advantage of free refills is that you pour your own drink and your own ice. You are therefore able to choose the ice/drink balance that you personally prefer, rather than the one that someone else chooses for you.

  • Michael Jennings

    It is certainly true – as several people have said – that Britain’s relatively mild weather means that there are only a few really cold days, and a few really hot days and a few really wet days per year, meaning that it is possible to cope without building a lot of infrastructure to cope with such eventualities. There are also cultural issues and issues of expectation, though, and different places with similar climates reach different solutions, so I don’t think it is entirely a matter of Britain reaching an economically efficient solution. Technology changes, and expectations perhaps don’t, so the newer technology does not get used. (Ice machines should be much more common).

    Another foreign custom I would like to see in Britain is water in cafes. You order a coffee, and you are brought a glass of water automatically as well without asking. This is more common in hotter climates, but is nice anywhere. The British don’t do this. (In Buenos Aires once I ordered a coffee, and was brought a little tray in which was a coffee, a glass of iced water, some little biscuits, and a glass of orange juice. It doesn’t quite make up for that city’s thieving taxi drivers, but it was pretty charming).

    And I am entirely with Rational Plan on the hotels. Coffee making facilities being ubiquitous and expected in all kinds of accommodation is a very nice custom.

  • Laird

    We’re veering a bit off topic here, but to follow up on Michael’s last comment it has been my experience that the more expensive the hotel the fewer amenities it provides. Almost all US hotels have ice makers on each floor, but expensive hotels tend to add a charge for wifi access which cheaper ones provide for free. Cheaper chain motels usually offer free breakfast (sometimes just cold cereal and pastries, but often including waffles, eggs and even bacon), but at expensive hotels you have to purchase a (vastly overpriced) breakfast in their restaurant. Unless you’re attending a conference in the hotel itself and want easy access to the events, I find it rarely makes sense to stay in the expensive ones.

  • Michael Jennings

    I think one is allowed to be off topic by the time one hits 70+ comments – I should have guessed that this is what happens when you start talking to the British about the weather.

    Another thing that cheap hotels often provide that expensive ones don’t is an iron and an ironing board. If you have a crushed but otherwise clean shirt – which often happens when you are travelling – you may well want it ironed. With your own ironing facilities you can do this in five minutes. In more expensive hotels, you often have to pay an expensive laundry service to do it. Not only does this cost too much, but it takes much longer than if you can just do it yourself.

    The question really is what you intend to do in a hotel. If it is just a place to sleep and leave your things while you are doing something else, you need a clean bedroom containing a bed that you can comfortably sleep in, a clean bathroom containing a good hot shower, WiFi, power outlets, and ideally a desk at which you can work if you need to. Many people also like a TV, but I don’t care myself. (Breakfast is nice, but it depends where you are. In urban environments there will usually be better breakfast options to be found nearby if you don’t mind going for a little walk down the street).

    If on the other hand you are intending to spend a lot of time in the hotel, have a romantic evening in it, or otherwise entertain people, then you might want more facilities. (For stays of multiple days and/or weeks in a hotel, you really want a refrigerator, for one thing. Minibars are excellent, because you can take all the overpriced stuff out and put your own stuff in the fridge instead).