The sun having got his hat on, this has been a week of dire heat warnings, record-breaking temperatures, advice on how to travel on a train without dehydrating (drink water), reminders of “I told you so” from climate change experts, and Sammy Wilson giving off about “hysteria” over “a couple of warm days”.
In the past couple of years we’ve had war and pestilence. Finally, the plague of locusts is on its way.
Earlier this week, Scotland, Wales and England all recorded their highest ever temperatures.
In national television newsrooms presenters had awaited the confirmation of this climatic milestone by talking it up with the same excitement, impatience and confidence they usually reserve for when England is playing in the World Cup.
Would the mercury hit the mark? It did. Global warming’s coming home.
To fill in the hours before the thermometer did the business, experts were wheeled on to provide analysis on everything from how come railway tracks melted in London, but not in the tropics, to the burning question of how to keep cool.
One bright idea was to place ice cubes in your armpits (I’m not making this up).
A few minutes later the same presenter was advising you must never put ice on bare skin because, of course, that could damage skin tissue.
The advice was as daft as some of the people it was obviously aimed at. One woman revealed that, after lying in the midday sun with no sunscreen applied, her face had surprisingly become very red and swollen and sore. Should you ever wonder what sort of numpty would put ice cubes in their oxters, there you have it.
Northern Ireland’s hottest day ever (since records began) was exactly a year ago when Castlederg registered just over 31°C.
The meltdown in England was matched here by some very good weather indeed. Northern Ireland wasn’t exactly transforming into equatorial jungle — although a big snake was spotted on the Shankill, which turned out to be an escapee from a pet owner, not evidence of the evolution of local wildlife.
For geographical reasons we’re not as exposed here as other places are to the wrath of rising temperatures.
At Westminster Sammy Wilson MP dismissed the “hysteria” surrounding the record heat — but people close to London whose homes went up like a Twelfth bonfire would be justified in feeling a bit hysterical. Not to mention those in France, Spain, Portugal and Greece, where heat and wildfire have claimed hundreds of lives.
East Antrim, Sammy’s constituency, may not be showing signs of morphing into a desert wasteland. But the fact — the indisputable fact — is that global warming is a real and pressing emergency leading not just to the hellish scenes Europe has witnessed this week, but to annual flooding and rising sea levels too.
It’s foolishness to suggest otherwise. But foolishness is something we do very well when the heat is on.
A prime example was a photograph of Portstewart Strand which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph this week, showing dozens of vehicles jam-packed on the sand.
One of the most beautiful beaches in this part of the world, overseen by the National Trust, no less, has been turned into a seaside Silverstone.
Driving onto the beach isn’t a new thing here. Down the years people have traditionally parked on the hard-packed sand to get closer to the sea.
You occasionally see stories about cars floating off in the tide because their owners left them too close to shore when they nipped off to buy a 99.
But over the years car ownership has increased — as have the number of people who can’t be bothered to walk the length of themselves. The parking on the beach we’re seeing now is madness.
Who would ever let go of their child’s hand on that beach?
The National Trust charge drivers £7.50 a car to access the Strand. If this was a private company you’d imagine there might be more said about it.
Cars are kept to one end and must not be driven above 5mph. Even so, the words “recipe for disaster” spring to mind.
Allowing disabled people and those with reduced mobility to drive onto the Strand would be acceptable. Not half the country.
Apart from anything else, all those parked-up and slow-moving vehicles can’t be doing the natural surroundings a whole lot of good, in any sense.
Don’t the National Trust care? Or do car-parking profits offset concern about the environment, global warming, health and safety and wildlife habitats?
‘Wasted’ gains new meaning
Proof that the Northern Irish sense of humour hasn’t been completely binned: a bar in Warrenpoint, Number 7 Duke Street, has introduced a new cocktail, the Windy Smasher. Inspired by the Twelfth of July wheelie bin incident in Belfast, it features mango, passion fruit and rum and is served in a mini bin with Union Flag and Tricolour. A cross-community cocktail. The bar’s owner, Caroline Reynolds, says that response on social media has been positive. It’s a bit of fun that, as Caroline says, turns a negative into a positive. Or, in this case, a Mojito. Cheers to that.
To sit or stand, that is the question
Boris Johnson wound up his last PMQs this week with a jaunty “Hasta la vista, baby”, a phrase which, with its suggestion of Terminator-style sequel, must have sent a shiver up his enemies. One of these, Theresa May, sat sourly as Boris received a standing ovation from his Tory colleagues. Theresa didn’t clap and, for a while anyway, remained seated. Then, grudgingly, she rose to her feet. It’s impressive when someone stands up for their convictions. Or sits down for them, even. Lady May dithered. Theresa the Terminator she ain’t.
Would a nuke know a border?
Vladimir Putin should nuke England but leave the rest of the UK alone, a Russian television host has declared. He outlined his reasons why: Scotland would soon be independent, Wales has been “quiet” and, “at Biden’s request, Northern Ireland will unite with Ireland”. What he didn’t explain, however, was how this nuclear precision was to be managed. Presumably it was just bluster. Hopefully it was just bluster. Because nukes that stop at borders would be a new thing. Would they recognise a border in the Irish Sea?