Where's the Air Conditioning? Off to the U.K. My 13 Days in England
Copyright (C) 2018 by Michael Rickard II
Your friend in the summer-Mr. Air Conditioner.
My trip to the United Kingdom was going well, but by Tuesday, I realized there are some things you just can’t plan for. I also was reminded that while the UK is similar to the United States, there are some differences that will surprise the casual traveler. None of them proved particularly problematic, but they made for some adjustments in my plans.
I was extremely blessed during my vacation to enjoy sunny weather. I was in the UK for 13 days and it didn’t rain one day where I was at (London and Lincoln). Everyone I met told me the weather was unusually sunny. I was hoping for at least one day of rain, but there were no complaints as I didn’t have to worry about lugging my suitcase through the rain.
If you're hot, one of your few options is that time-tested resource known as the shade.
The weather was also unusually warm. Again, I was told that London’s temperatures were exceptionally high (82 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit) and while the term “record highs” was thrown around, I don’t know if that was true. Back home in the colonies, the temperatures were in the 90’s with a heat index at 100 so I was having it good. I was also enjoying the low humidity. Nonetheless, it was hot, especially when you realize many places have no air conditioning.
This may be hyperbole, but London was hot and Londoners were not happy with the temperatures!
It’s true. Most places (other than supermarkets) I went to were not air-conditioned. It didn’t matter if I went to a restaurant, a shop, or a home, most people did not have air conditioning. I wasn’t dying in the 82-degree weather but when you’re used to AC, it takes some getting used to.
The UK has traditionally been comfortable without air conditioning. According to a 2008 report, “…just 0.5% of houses and flats in the UK had any kind of air con” (Barford). Their temperatures normally are lower than in the U.S. thus air conditioning is more of a luxury. There is also the belief some Europeans avoid air conditioning due to sensitivities about climate change. However, I can tell you if the temperatures continue to rise, don’t be surprised to see more homes with air conditioners.
London has a great subway system but alas, no air conditioning. Did the U.K. check its privilege?
Things are even more brutal in London’s subway system. A Mirror article noted how the temperatures in “The Tube” rose above 35 degrees Celsius, noting, “This exceeds the EU limit of 30C at which it is legal to transport cows, sheep and pigs.” (MacCahill). Fear not underground travelers, air conditioning is promised to arrive by 2030.
The Tube is no fun when it's hot enough to fry an egg (okay, more hyperbole).
No trip goes without a snag and my trip at my Air BnB posed a slight challenge when the hot water stopped working. I needed to shower because I was getting sweaty walking around London town. Nothing works like hot water and soap but what do you do when there’s no hot water? I sure as hell wasn’t going to shower with cold water. I’d avoided that in Con College and wasn’t changing now. Fortunately, I remembered hearing about water-free soap and water-free shampoo. I went online and found some stores that carried it, propelling myself into a quest.
Even my feline friend Mr. Oreo had trouble coping with the heat.
London’s mass transit system was easy to use. I went on their web page and plotted the route to where I was going. I arrived at a lovely department store. It was air conditioned which made me consider camping here for the next few hours. Instead, I checked on the soap and shampoo at the beauty department. While they didn’t carry it, they referred me to a chemist (pharmacy) down the street. The chemist didn’t have it either but said a local superstore did. I found the store and while they had the shampoo, they didn’t have the soap. At least I could walk around without a hat. The hat I’d brought looked snazzy, but it only looked cool, its black color and cloth material made it a bad choice for the summer.
Not the best choice for a hat when you're roaming the UK in the summer.
My host was able to get the hot water working which was good. I showered the stink off and remembered how lucky I am to live in the First World. My host treated me to dinner too because she felt bad I didn’t have hot water for a day. I tried Thai food for the first time and it was delicious. I had egg fried rice and some sort of noodle dish with seafood. Not bad for a country where air conditioning is as rarer than hillbillies.
Barford, Vanessa. “10 ways the UK is ill-prepared for a heatwave.” BBC. Magazine. 18 July 2013. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23341698. Accessed 13 Aug. 2018.
MacCahill, Elaine. “This is why the Tube is so hot and doesn't have air con despite 34C heat.” Mirror. News. 29 June 2018. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/london-tube-hot-commuters-battling-12818744. Accessed 13 Aug. 2018.
Noack, Rick. “Europe to America: Your love of air-conditioning is stupid.” The Washington Post. WorldViews. 22 July 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/07/22/europe-to-america-your-love-of-air-conditioning-is-stupid/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9b2d4325fad5. Accessed 13 Aug. 2018.