Stay cool and carry on? Britons are having the hottest day on record.

The bathing ponds at Hampstead Heath in north London drew residents to the town on Tuesday during Britain's historic heat wave.  (James Forde for the Washington Post)
The bathing ponds at Hampstead Heath in north London drew residents to the town on Tuesday during Britain’s historic heat wave. (James Forde for the Washington Post)

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LONDON — On Britain’s hottest day on record, with temperatures topping 104 degrees Fahrenheit, we found Earthlings huddled next to the refrigerated section of the Marks & Spencer grocery store at Marylebone station.

“I’ve been standing here for about 10 minutes,” said Andy Martin, 28, a video technician. “Do not tell anyone.”

It’s not normal here. That kind of heat. This heat wave.

The Weather Bureau, the national weather service, reported that at least 34 pitches in Britain exceeded the previous high temperature, with a wide swath of south-east and central England exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. It’s a hell of 104 Fahrenheit.

A fire spread to Dagenham, east London, as temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit on July 19. (Video: Storyful)

Britain is not designed for this. The country’s homes and shops, train stations and subway cars, its schools and offices – very, very few of them are air-conditioned.

Has it ever, in human history, been so hot in the British Isles? Maybe not.

There was a kind of tremor, a feeling of anxiety in the capital on this signal day. It was windy, but this dry sirocco-like wind, running in the Mediterranean, in Sicily and not in Southhampton, with the summer leaves crackling and people stumbling, from one shaded area to another , as paramedics were busy peeling heatstroke victims. off the sidewalks.

Stepping into some of Britain’s hottest homes on the hottest day was like stepping into a steam room.

As Washington Post reporters entered some of the flats in Chalcots Estate, a public housing estate in north central London, they were greeted by a thick rush of heat.

“Can you feel it? It’s so hot,” said Mandy Ryan, who works as a resident association representative.

She walked into her living room and pointed to a ceiling fan, whose blades were spinning slowly, and accused the device of being useless.

“It’s no use,” she said.

Like many residents of the high tower just north of Regents Park, she has spectacular views over the London skyline.

Visualize the heat wave in Europe with melting popsicles

She also has a fine collection of cuckoo clocks and ceramic ornaments for dogs. But inside her home on Tuesday, the most striking thing was the stuffy air.

Bonnie, her Labradoodle, was panting heavily at her feet.

“We won’t have leg of lamb for dinner tonight,” she joked, nodding at her unused oven.

John Szymanska, a handyman from Poland, plastered and painted a flat in Hampstead, north London.

“It’s misery,” he said, drenched in sweat. “But what can you do?” He asked. “Everywhere it is getting hotter and hotter.

Why This European Heat Wave Is So Scary

Unlike some immigrants, who might mention that they find the English weak in this heat, Szymanska offered her sympathy. “I feel for them. They’re not used to it.

Back at Chalcots Estate, Paul Rafis, 38, a butcher and hip-hop artist, was struggling.

Her sofa bed was covered in fur. He explained that his dog, Wise, sheds a lot. Not that Rafis sleeps much.

“When it’s hot, you suffer in these blocks,” he said.

In his studio on the 15th floor, Rafis worried that his refrigerator might catch fire. So he turned it off for four hours and put the food in his freezer.

Some experts have said the fire that engulfed nearby Grenfell Tower in 2017, killing 72 people, may have been caused by overheating wiring to a fridge-freezer.

“Nothing in the house is used to this weather,” Rafis said as he tapped on his refrigerator, which felt warm again shortly after being plugged back in.

Europe sizzles in record heat wave as thousands flee wildfires

London’s Underground, the Tube, can be notoriously hot – and no line has a worse reputation than the Bakerloo.

“Anyone who enjoys paddling on rivers of molten lava should head to the Bakerloo Line, where they will feel right at home,” said Karen Buck, Labor MP. tweeted.

We entered Charing Cross station with some trepidation. There were industrial-sized fans forcing air through the narrow passages, but just like a cave, deep underground, there were pockets of cool air on the platforms.

Inside the wagons, it was rather ripe.

For Angel Rodriquez, a Spanish-born kitchen worker heading for his afternoon prep shift, the commute wasn’t as bad as he imagined.

He was not, however, a philosopher. “It’s all of us,” he noted, saying climate change would only intensify and make matters worse. He nodded when he was reminded of the headlines from back home, where massive forest fires have ravaged parts of Spain.

Spain devastated by wildfires amid record heat wave

The streets of London weren’t empty, but they were definitely quiet, with the city’s windows covered in curtains to block out the sun. The royal parks and their long lawns were mostly empty, with only a few hardy souls spreading blankets in the shade of the trees.

The Lido, a public swimming pool on Parliament Hill, had a long line of people waiting to get in. In the water, children splash happily as lifeguards whistle.

Back at Chalcots Estate, the playgrounds were child-free. Authorities had urged even healthy youngsters and their parents to stay indoors.

Some residents told the Post they had installed air conditioning – just 3% of UK homes have it – or bought simple fans. Most, however, simply drank cold liquids and avoided the sun.

A few, albeit a minority, said they accepted the heat.

“I sweat, but I love it,” said Chantal Peters, 43 and mother of six.

She said things got worse two years ago when temperatures soared during a pandemic lockdown. “It was 34°C, we were locked up. Now this was hot. It was disgusting.

Sean Walsh, who works in sales, was visiting his 71-year-old mother who lives in a top floor apartment. Her daughter had a day off because of the heat.

He called the weather “brutal”.

“It’s uncomfortable and hot, and this country is not designed for this heat,” he said. “The environment changes and people forget it. All that concrete, in any big city, is a heat sink. You would be blind Freddy not to read the research and see that this is going to continue and we have to adapt. ”

Especially in high-rise buildings, which give off heat. “It multiplies,” Walsh said.


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