Dr FosterUnless you happen to be six or seven-years-old – and I’m guessing you’re not – you’ll have lived through enough hot summers to know heat-waves are usually followed by thunderstorms. Indeed, there’s nothing quite like an outburst of summer rain at the end of a sweltering day for washing away the stuffy mugginess and cleansing your parched person after weeks of exhausting temperatures. Even 1976 – yes, even 1976 – saw the drought and the ladybird invasion and ‘Save it!’ stickers and street-corner standpipes eventually consigned to a lifetime of future anecdotes from those who were there when the heavens opened. Thankfully, we don’t live in a country stuck with the one climate all year round, so we’re all aware of the usual pattern when we’ve experienced an occasional bout of extremely hot weather. I wish someone would alert the MSM to this fact. Sometimes it seems their hysterical headlines are penned by those very six or seven-year-olds whose memories don’t stretch back far enough to recognise an annual pattern when it happens.

According to ‘journalists’ suffering from this particular strain of arrested development, ‘The UK’s heat-wave is predicted to come to a dramatic end this week!’ In an unprecedented move, weather forecasters apparently predict it’ll give way to thunderstorms. Fancy that. Now, for those averse to the kind of temperatures the country has been basking in for the last few weeks, the inevitable rainfall will come as one hell of a relief, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll be as shocked by this news as the headline-writers appear to imagine. And if the remarkable revelation that a hot spell will be followed by heavy showers isn’t enough to stoke the requisite panic in the reader, the Project Fear narrative our media seems addicted to informs us that floods are on the way! From the apocalyptic portrait of Britain as some sort of scorched earth African desert that could provoke a finger-wagging ‘told you so’ from Little Miss Thunberg to the unleashing of forces requiring the swift building of an ark, we swing from one crisis to another with barely a Pinter-esque pause for breath in between.

If one were to be a tad more generous towards the headline-writers, one might attribute their open-jawed surprise re the way weather works to a more familiar short-term memory loss. I guess it is fairly commonplace once you’ve lived long enough; by the time we get a year away from the previous summer, for example, I can barely remember if it was a warm one or a wet one last year. I can recall a few exceptionally hot days around six years ago, but only because the heat is attached to an especially vivid memory unrelated to the climate of the moment. Other than that, I see the stats for the UK’s highest temperatures on record and (unless it’s 1976), I would’ve struggled to put a date on said scorchers anyway. Of the top ten hottest days ever recorded in Blighty, all-but three have come this century, with a day from this very summer – 19 July in Coningsby, Lincolnshire – now having deposed 25 July 2019 in Cambridge as the official winner. And it seems only right to reveal the temperature in old money: 104.5 ºF – which is extremely bloody hot. Do you remember it being a hot summer in 2020, 2015, 2006 or 2003, though? I can’t say I do, but they were some of the other years figuring in this top ten, even if we’re only dealing with isolated days rather than a uniquely prolonged dry spell like 1976.

Anyway, as a nice man at the Met Office has explained, the welcome rains won’t cure the drought that has led to the standard hosepipe bans in the sweatiest corners of the country. This is on account of the fact that ground rendered so dry by constant exposure to the kind of heat the red-faced folk of Coningsby endured last month will struggle to absorb the anticipated downpours. A good deal of the water will not therefore soak into the soil and will instead run off it, leading to flash floods. Not a nice prospect for those riverside towns and villages accustomed to a rude awakening whenever this type of rain sends their neighbouring waterways redirected through their living rooms, yet this is not a nationwide crisis yet. Some parts of the country will still be baking in Fahrenheit temperatures of the upper 80s, whereas others will receive the ‘dramatic’ thunder and lightning we’ve been promised. Eight locations in England have now been officially designated drought areas, meaning images of wildfires and shallow reservoirs can carry on being run by news outlets. The insufferable humidity that usually serves as a prologue to a summer storm will be with us, so the experts say, and then rain will stop play. Of course, if investment in infrastructure was a by-product of privatisation, perhaps there wouldn’t be the outrageous amounts of water reserves lost through rotting pipes that have left water companies so ill-prepared for the current crisis, but that would mean depriving directors of their hard-earned bonuses, so we shouldn’t judge them too harshly.

With the coming of the UK’s very own monsoon season, Project Fear has ramped-up the drama by prophesising power-cuts, along with bus and train cancellations. After all, the imminent ending of a story that has generated so many of those hysterical headlines this summer needs to be superseded by another, lest the people slide into complacency and forget the end of the world is nigh. I guess the rains will keep the MSM going until the long-awaited Winter of Discontent is with us – and there’s a shilling for the first person to spot a ‘coldest winter since 1963’ headline. Naturally, this winter simply has to be the coldest since 1963 in order for the cost-of-living crisis story to reach its correct apogee from the perspective of the media. We’ve already been warned gas power stations may be switched-off before we get there as part of an emergency strategy to prevent 70s-style blackouts come the winter – an operation that goes by the suitably dramatic name of a ‘war-game’ plan. Not that any of this reduced power will be reflected in lower energy bills for the customer, mind.

Mercifully, the UK isn’t as dependent on Russian gas as, say, the Germans fatally are; but a hands-across-the-ocean approach to sharing energy with some of our European neighbours could cost us. Interconnectors link Britain with France and Norway, giving Brits top-ups from both nations when the UK network is running low. News that the Norwegians might be forced to ration such exports isn’t encouraging, and some in the industry have claimed the UK’s onshore storage amounts to gas that will span no more than 10 days. Predictions of the kind of energy-saving blackouts that anyone over the age of 50 will recall from candlelit childhoods are being touted, with one insider suggesting a possibility of limiting the use of gas and electricity to barely six hours a day. An ‘unplug-at-home January’ – as it’s been referred to – is the perfect element to add further colour to the forthcoming Project Fear winter narrative we can look forward to. Throw the recession into the mix and there should be enough to keep the MSM going till next spring, if we haven’t all frozen or starved to death by the time it comes around.

What to do? Well, standing for Parliament could be one way to survive the energy apocalypse. Over the past three years, taxpayers have forked-out £420,000 to cover the cost of heating the second homes of honourable members, with 405 MPs claiming energy expenses since April 2019, according to a report by Open Democracy earlier this year. One of those MPs was a certain Ms Truss. No wonder people are taking notice of the findings of this report now more than they did when it was published in the spring. Hot on the heels of Climate Change and Covid and lockdowns and Monkey Pox and a global recession and a summer drought, the MSM has been spoilt for choice, and it looks as though they’ve got plenty more to work with to ensure many a sleepless night. Where’s Nick Ross when you need him?

© The Editor





Blow UpFour days tends to be the average maximum between posts on here, though I have nothing to really say today – nothing concerning the usual suspects, that is. I haven’t been sufficiently motivated by either Covid-related stuff or Identity Politics to compose a post since the last one; and that’s how it usually works – I never intentionally sit down and think ‘I must write something about coronavirus transgender racism.’ Whatever gets written usually just appears; it’s rarely premeditated, but I know when a post is on its way. Inspiration when it hits is a bit like seeing the Bat Signal in the sky; suddenly, without warning, it’s there and I spring into action. Well, when there is no Bat Signal hovering over Gotham City that’s generally when we get to the four-day mark. I can’t even default to my familiar standby of reviewing an obscure TV series from the 70s today, as I’m not currently watching one of them that I haven’t already written about on here. However, rather than this ending up being the shortest Telegram from the Winegum of all time, I shall instead ramble and meander a little, just as I sometimes do when I venture outdoors.

Of late, I’ve found ‘the walk’ that we were all encouraged to indulge in during Lockdown Mk. I (as a means of presumably preventing the nation from sinking into couch potato obesity) has become something I succumb to maybe just once a week, mainly because I’ve more or less been everywhere within walking distance now. I suppose I’m more amenable to the idea when it’s a nice day, naturally, and after a few drizzly and chilly interludes bearing a closer resemblance to October rather than August, the weather feels summery again. Therefore, today I decided to embark upon a stroll with no specific destination in mind; I did, however, find myself being drawn back to a location I’ve walked round several times this summer – the empty grounds of a nearby university campus. I say empty only in relation to its term-time tenants, for most students are obviously absent this time of year. Indeed, much like the hospital staff on the episode of ‘Yes Minister’ who don’t feel the need to fill their workplace with actual patients, I can’t help but note what pleasant places campuses are without students getting in the way.

With the majority of this particular campus having being built in the 19th century, it does have an easy-on-the-eye aesthetic appeal in terms of its architecture, and the vast expanse of greenery surrounding the buildings also adds to the ambience. The grounds border a public park, which means the whole site conjures the illusion of being somewhere a long way from an urban environment; the fact it’s not much more than ten minutes on foot from my front door proves that it’s a lot closer than the serene mirage suggests, however. What also plays its part in making this place such a pleasant spot to stroll through is the fact the absence of students reduces the noise levels. This time of year, the campus is like a benign vortex, a silent oasis that it’s hard to believe is just a stone’s throw from a ridiculously busy thoroughfare; living on said thoroughfare means most of the day the only sounds that penetrate my den are manmade: car engines, car horns, car alarms, in-car sound systems, and more than anything else, sirens – bloody sirens. I therefore notice it when I’m somewhere that has none of these sonic abortions, and the campus in question has none of them.

The phrase ‘Whispering Grass’ may evoke memories of Windsor Davies and Don Estelle if you’re of a certain age, but it also fits this place. That’s how lovely it is when all you can hear other than birdsong is the gentle ripple of the lawns in the breeze; what we would call silence can only really be referred to as such when it has something to be compared to; and when compared to the cacophony I’m accustomed to most days, this is silence. But, of course, it’s not silent; it’s merely softer than the norm, and it’s blissful. There are tennis courts in the grounds, but they’re all bolted up and packed away until the more sporty students return; there’s also a space that looks big enough to contain a fair-size football pitch, though the whispering grass there isn’t currently short enough for a proper kickabout and there’s no markings present; I suspect that’ll be attended to by September. That none of the areas catering for students into sporting pursuits are maintained as such when they’re away means these areas are amongst the most quiet and utterly deserted on campus. Anyone familiar with the scenes in seminal Swinging London movie ‘Blow-Up’ when David Hemmings’ photographer character wanders through an empty park without any dialogue or background music getting in the way will recognise just how striking the sound of ‘silence’ is; in fact, this part of the campus reminds me a lot of those scenes bar the bit where he finds the body in the bushes.

The only other people I tend to see out and about up there are either mothers with pushchairs and toddlers who are at that age when they want to walk rather than be pushed, or dog-walkers. I saw a walker with a six-strong pack a couple of weeks back and laughed to myself when I spotted the one dog that every pack has, the obstinate bloody-minded one in possession of selective deafness, the one who always drifts just that little bit too far from the rest, the one whose name is called out more than any of the others; he had a bell on his collar precisely for that reason, I guess. He also caught my eye on account of him being a miniature schnauzer, which happens to be one of my favourite pedigrees; this breed usually produces memorable characters and I used to know one who was indeed just that. It didn’t surprise me that the pooch in this pack stubbornly doing his own thing happened to be a miniature schnauzer.

A cartoon in the last issue of ‘Private Eye’ pictured a man walking a dog being asked by another man what breed it was, to which the dog-walker replied ‘Dunno, I only got him so I don’t look like a pervert when I’m down the park.’ I got the joke because it is true one can feel a tad self-conscious when walking through a park alone and without even a canine companion; I probably feel this more so because there have been times when I’ve had dogs and my presence in the park has therefore seemed ‘legit’. Bereft of a dog, I ordinarily wouldn’t be there, but ever since the first lockdown there’s been a greater impetus to be out for reasons other than simply shopping. That said, self-consciousness when one doesn’t have a dog matters less when strolling through a quiet campus; for all anyone knows, I could be a post-graduate drifter with no home to go back to – or even a slightly eccentric tutor.

There’s a definite out-of-season seaside town vibe to a campus in the summer, though I should imagine anyone else who ventures into this delightful vacuum in July and August will be as conscious as me that our little secret garden won’t be secret for much longer. Once the gates of academia are reopened, the character of the campus will inevitably alter and it’ll cease to be such a tranquil retreat till next summer. I feel a bit like Looby Loo, knowing she can only dance around when Andy Pandy and Teddy are elsewhere; the minute she hears them returning, her brief window of self-indulgence slams shut and she reverts to a lifeless ragdoll. Never having been a student myself, I’ve only understood the appeal of dreaming spires as I’ve matured; and though this campus isn’t Oxford, it nevertheless has a similar atmosphere I’m partial to, as long as it’s empty of students. Hope you didn’t mind this meander, by the way; I’ve never considered travel writing on account of not doing much in the way of travelling (bit of a hindrance, that), so this is as near as I’ll get for the moment.

© The Editor