It has been brutally hot and it is going to get worse, so while we wait and pray for our leaders to wake up to the reality of climate change, what can we do personally to stay cool?
1. Wear light clothes. Loose cotton dresses are much cooler than shorts as the air can move around your waist. Men look great in kaftans, which are what men wear in the hottest countries, for good reason!
3. Get up EARLY when it is cool and open every window to get the cool morning air in. Use a room fan to blow cool air into the room from the window. Warm air rises, so open any window that you can up high and suck cool air in from the basement or lower rooms. As soon as the temperature outside is warmer than inside, close and shutter to keep the cooled air in.
2. Close your windows and keep your shutters or curtains closed, when the sun is out. Open the windows only when the temperature outside is cooler than inside. Buy a little indoor outdoor thermometer to check.
4. Don’t put the oven on! Don’t cook anything that needs a long time. When you have cooked put the hot pan outside to stop it heating up the kitchen. Couscous is brilliant, as it needs just a small kettle of boiling water to cook it and left over couscous is great spiced up and eaten cold.
5. The simplest way to get cool is to wet your arms and face and sit in front of the fan. Soaking a t-shirt, wringing it out and then wearing it will keep you cool for ages. Wetted top sheet will help you sleep if it is really bad. Sitting with your feet in a basin of cold water helps swollen ankles .
5. Air conditioning is the obvious choice for many, but it eats electricity and that drives the problems that make the world hotter, so if you can: avoid.
Long term cooling solutions involve planting many many more shady trees . Trees can drop the temperature by 10 degrees and are of course beautiful. Painting roofs white make a big difference and not laying black tarmac everywhere makes urban areas more liveable. Fountains that people can splash in and walk through are wonderful.
Homes and offices need to lose all that glass that makes living in them literally like living in a green house. The fashion for endless glass is insane. Every new home I see with huge glass windows, has to quickly spend a fortune on blinds and curtains that are never never opened. A wall, is much cooler!!
A) a bottle of water left over night in the freezer and then sat in your lap.
B) a gel neck scarf. The gel swells up in water over night and then cools your neck all day as you wear it. It isn’t wet on the skin, you can get all sorts of attractive patterns and it is definitely the best cheap cooling device.
C) a snap towel. I don’t know how these little towels work, but they certainly do. You wet the little towel a bit, shake it to make it snap and put it on your head or neck – very cool!
D) a neck fan. This is my latest acquisition. It looks like a pair of hipster ear phones around your neck. It charges with a usb lead and works for hours blowing air round your face. It is very light and brilliant when you are moving around.
High temperatures generally mean a lack of rain and water shortages. To keep your plants alive, reuse your washing water!!
Bowls of water, that have washed dishes or hands, can be collected in a pail and used to water everything. Plants do not mind a bit of detergent/soap – in fact they love it!
Collecting shower water is difficult, but bath water is easy to collect if your bathroom is upstairs. Every evening, after a bath , I lower a pump connected to a hose pipe into the bath and pump the water straight out onto the vegetable patch or into a water butt for use later. I use bubble bath and the veg are fine! You need one person to keep an eye on the pump upstairs to turn off the electricity when the bath is empty.
I am sure many of you know all of these tricks, but this blog might just contain a new idea to keep you cool and keep your garden blooming in the dry and the heat.
There isn’t any creature much cuter than a squirrel!
I saw my first red squirrels in Formby which is a wonderfully unexpected area of sand dunes, pine trees and sea very close to my childhood home in Liverpool. The story of their survival is the first wild life story that I really remember. Grey squirrels are an American import that has apparently driven out the native red squirrel from most of England.
However, as with most stories of alien invasion, it is more complex than it first appears. Apparently grey squirrels don’t compete for the red squirrel’s food, as the red squirrel is much more dependent on the seeds from pine trees, but greys can eat all manner of foods ( especially peanuts from bird feeders!). Unfortunately they carry a disease which is transmutable to red squirrels and this is the real reason why reds do not thrive in the presence of grey squirrels.
The first place I really watched red squirrels up close was in the central parks of Almaty in Kazakhstan. The length of the tufts on their ears made me laugh out loud, as they seemed improbably transgressively punk, leaping amongst the carefully managed trees.
The photos here are from just over the border in Germany, but red squirrels are at home here in France and I once saw a buzzard pluck one from a branch and fly away with the little helpless little bundle in our local woods.
Before you get too dewy eyed about red squirrels, it is thought that the fashion for red squirrel fur collars was responsible for introducing leprosy into Europe during the Middle Ages. The scourge of leprosy has been tracked down to squirrel furs imported from Scandinavia into Britain , but it may also have arisen in many other places before colonials exported it to the Americas and beyond.