This is how I spent an hour of my holiday today:
It's beautiful out: 21°C, mostly sunny, with a gentle breeze. But I walked that far in less than an hour, so I'm now back at my hotel to shower. Still, this is exactly how I needed to spend today.
I mentioned earlier today (yesterday BST) that I sought the Source. Here it is:
That monument marks the official head of the River Thames, though in September after a long, dry summer, there isn't a lot else that would convince you. Still, boundaries and origins have always fascinated me, so I just had to see it.
Naturally, the closest pub to the monument capitalizes on its notoriety:
Also just as naturally, my trip to Kemble required a totally unanticipated hour and 20 minutes in Swindon, which...well, let me save a thousand words:
Yeah...I don't even know the American analogy to it, but my money's on Elgin: the train doesn't stop in the best spot, but otherwise it's a decent exurb with a history.
Tomorrow I'm staying entirely in London, and planning on going to pub quiz at my second-favorite pub in the world, now that I know they have pub quiz Monday nights. Right now, I aim to finish Redshirts, which I started in Kemble. And then go to sleep. Because my stay-on-Chicago-time strategy has not worked entirely according to plan.
Today's plan is to hop a train for about an hour and 20 minutes and look for a specific monument in a field. One hopes that today I'll remember to put sunscreen on my face. It is, in fact, possible to get a sunburn in the UK in September.
Details and photos tonight.
I had thought about going to see the Chelsea v Bournemouth match at Stamford Bridge today, and even tried to get tickets online for weeks. But getting an English Premier League ticket when you're not a club member is a bit like trying to get a Yankees-Red Sox ticket at Fenway day of game.
I did, however, (a) see Stamford Bridge and (b) buy a shirt, so I feel a bit like I participated.
On the way back, I walked through Brompton Cemetery, which, like Graceland Cemetery back home, is something very close by that I haven't seen before. It was worth the detour:
Note how not very green the place is right now. The UK really hasn't gotten a lot of rain this summer. It's quite grim.
I will now take a brief nap before heading out to Hampstead Heath on my way to Southampton Arms. And if my favorite pub in the UK is also closed, I will...go somewhere else, I suppose.
My strategy of sleeping until noon (i.e., 6am Chicago time) to avoid shifting my body clock didn't exactly work this trip. That's because, unfortunately, my hotel's air conditioning is being replaced. Fortunately I'm here now, when it's 23°C, not a month ago when it was 34°C. And fortunately, my windows open. That means I had the windows wide open last night, which, unfortunately, meant the sun poured in starting around 6am. Fortunately, I have this view:
And the hotel left a couple of big fans in the room, fortunately.
Then, unfortunately, this terribly disappointing thing is also going on right now:
That's The Blackbird, my second-favorite pub in London, undergoing a gut rehab, apparently. It closed mid-July and won't open again until mid-October, according to my hotel's staff.
But fortunately, the Prince of Teck is just down the road a bit, and they have a pretty good Full English breakfast:
Now, having only gotten four hours of sleep last night, I'm going to have a kip. Because fortunately, I have absolutely nothing scheduled for today.
A couple of streaks ended today.
First, the good one: after 221 days, I finally got to fly somewhere. That's the longest I've gone without traveling by air since 1980, or possibly earlier.
Second, the bad one: after 82 days, I finally missed 10,000 steps, owing to the above-mentioned flying. That's the longest stretch of 10k-plus days I've had since getting a Fitbit. (I would have made it, too, if it weren't for those meddling time zones.)
Finally, there is a crushing disappointment that I will share tomorrow morning. Well, maybe not crushing, but certainly disappointing. And temporary, it seems, but coinciding exactly with my trip here. So, boo.
Most people starting college this year were born in 2000. Let that sink in. Then read this:
- They are the first class born in the new millennium, escaping the dreaded label of “Millennial,” though their new designation—iGen, GenZ, etc. — has not yet been agreed upon by them.
- Outer space has never been without human habitation.
- They have always been able to refer to Wikipedia.
- They have grown up afraid that a shooting could happen at their school, too.
- People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.
It gets worse from there. (Worse, I suppose, if you realize that these kids are 30 years younger than you are.)
I'm traveling today, so this may be my last post of the Summer of 2018. Posting resumes from the Ancestral Homeland tomorrow.
The New York City subway, with its passive air exchange system and tunnels too small for active ventilation or air conditioning, have gotten excessively hot this summer:
On Thursday, temperatures inside at least one of the busiest stations reached 40°C—nearly 11°C warmer than the high in Central Park.
The Regional Plan Association, an urban planning think tank for the greater metropolitan area, took a thermometer around the system’s 16 busiest stations, plus a few more for good measure, and shared the data with CityLab. A platform at Union Square Station had the 40°C reading at 1 p.m., which was the hottest they found, although Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and Columbus Circle weren’t far off at 39°C and 38½°C, at around 10 and 11 a.m., respectively. Twelve out of the 16 busiest stops boiled at or over the 32°C mark in the late morning and early afternoon.
One might think that subway stations would offer crisp respite to sweaty New Yorkers, being underground and all. But you’d be wrong. Heat doesn’t only “rise”—it just diffuses to cooler areas, which can include below-ground spaces. Plus, only a few of the city’s 472 stations are equipped with air conditioning; most rely on a passive ventilation system better known for their Marilyn Monroe moments above ground. This system was built in the days before AC, and the MTA says it’s not possible to squeeze the station-cooling machinery that other metro systems have inside New York’s narrow tunnels. Meanwhile, the units that cool passengers inside cars actually shed heat into the stations as trains pass through.
That onboard air-conditioning can fail, too. The MTA has also seen a rising number of complaints about overheated cars in recent years. In today’s issue of Signal Problems, his indispensable newsletter focused on subway accountability, the journalist Aaron Gordon reports that “about two percent of all subway cars in service on any given day might not have working A/C,” according to the MTA. That means at least 100 cars are roasting passengers on any given day this summer.
This problem also bedevils the London Underground.
Meanwhile, here in Chicago, we're having our 73rd day this year above 27°C, just 10 short of the record. Given the normal number of temperatures that warm between now and October, I think we'll probably set a new one.
And the sunlight here looks eerily orange and hazy today, because of climate change-driven wildfires out west.
Welcome to the future.
As London broils in 34°C heat today, New Republic's Emily Atkin asks, "Why are some major news outlets still covering extreme weather like it's an act of God?"
The science is clear: Heat-trapping greenhouse gases have artificially increased the average temperature across the globe, making extreme heat events more likely. This has also increased the risk of frequent and more devastating wildfires, as prolonged heat dries soil and turns vegetation into tinder.
And yet, despite these facts, there’s no climate connection to be found in much news coverage of extreme weather events across the globe—even in historically climate-conscious outlets like NPR and The New York Times. These omissions, critics say, can affect how Americans view global warming and its impact on their lives.
Meanwhile, the Guardian (who, one hopes, have air conditioning in their offices) are reporting that 87% of the earth's oceans have human-caused damage.
London has very few air conditioners compared with North American cities, because the 30°C temperatures they've got right now happen so rarely it hasn't made a lot of sense to install them. But this heat wave is different:
The average July high in Stockholm, for example, is usually 23°C; this week, temperatures will crest 32°C, and there are 21 wildfires currently blazing across Sweden during its worst drought in 74 years. Some municipalities have resorted to sending leaflets to older residents to give them tips on how to manage the heat. Hospitals are shipping in otherwise rarely needed air conditioning units. Swimmers might be tempting to cool off in the city’s many waterways, but hot weather has caused giant algae blooms to appear within the Stockholm Archipelago, making the water unhealthy to swim in.
In the UK, severe dry conditions have also fed wildfires. Earlier this month, a large section of the grassy meadows at Wanstead Flats, on London’s eastern edge, burnt to ash—only to reignite again during another fire yesterday. This summer parts of the London region have received only six percent of their normal rainfall, leaving parks brown and reservoirs dry.
Parts of the UK may hit 36°C later this week, with torrential downpours predicted for Friday—a recipe for flash floods and massive property damage:
Several places have now had 54 consecutive dry days – meaning less than 1mm of rain – stretching back to 30 May, the longest spell since 1969 when 70 days passed with no significant rainfall, according to the Met Office.
The longest run of days with no rain at all this summer is 48 at Brooms Barn, near Bury St Edmunds.
A Met Office spokesman said: “For the UK as a whole we’ve only seen about 20% of the rainfall we’d normally expect throughout the whole summer. Parts of southern England have seen only 6%.”
Several longtime Daily Parker readers live in or are this week visiting the UK. Guys: how bad is it where you are? I'll be in the Big Stink on August 31st to find out for myself. I hope it's not as grim by then.