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Janet Street-Porter: The Nanny-State Panic Over Britain’s Heatwave

Janet Street-Porter, MailOnline

The unusual weather in the UK has been in sync with my digestive system. Following a knee replacement operation sixteen days ago, a great many painkillers and bed rest I have been suffering from chronic constipation.

At the same time as my system went into lockdown, Britain became the hottest place in Europe, the World, who knows. Whatever, you could fry an egg on the pavement outside my hospital ward. We’re warned that the Horrorshow Heatwave currently engulfing Britain will peak in the next 48 hours, and God knows what will happen after that. The growing plague of jellyfish will mount the beaches of Kent and stage sit-ins in our beach huts. According to one pessimist, if this weather becomes an annual feature, 7,000 vulnerable people a year could die.

Two people make the most of the very hot weather on Bournemouth beach in Dorset today

Two people make the most of the very hot weather on Bournemouth beach in Dorset today

If you want a technical explanation for the current crisis, climate experts reckon the Gulf Stream is to blame. The system has winds of hundreds of miles an hour at its core, hundreds of miles above the earth, which normally drive weather across Western Europe. For whatever reason, the Gulf Stream has become unusually sluggish – hence the comparison with my large intestine. It can’t move the hot weather anywhere else – and there’s no environmental equivalent of a laxative to force it back into action.

The situation is more or less than same as back in 1976, cue newspapers giving us pictures of tankers delivering water and empty reservoirs from over 40 years ago. There’s nothing like scare-mongering to cheer us up! Extreme weather, exactly like chronic constipation, only lasts a certain length of time, even though it can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Soon, the high winds that drive the Gulf Stream will lurch back into action and we’ll return to a normal summer – wet, windy, cloudy, sunny periods. Gardens will grow, hosepipes will be permitted, and the price of beer and bottled water will drop along with the temperature.

In the meantime, the population is almost on a war footing dealing with a bit of sweat and lack of water. Every activity comes with ‘warnings’ as if we could be endangering our lives by walking the dog or going for a swim or a trip on public transport. The problem with Brits – compared to the inhabitants of any other civilized country – is that they love to moan and turn warm weather into a life-changing drama. This baby mentality has been carefully nurtured over the years by the Met Office, which has encouraged weathermen and women to liven up their bulletins with phrases like ‘mist and murk’ and ‘stay safe’ which have no basis in fact or real necessity.

The Met Office is blatantly touting for business as Britain’s Great Big Nanny, and I won’t have it. ‘Stay Safe’ is one of the most disgustingly phoney phrases in the English language – amazing to think that back in 1976 we sunbathed with relatively unsophisticated tanning lotions (my mother used a bottle of olive oil) and drank water straight from public drinking fountains, not out of plastic bottles. If it was raining heavily when Dad drove the family car, he put the wipers on a faster setting and it was very noisy. We didn’t know about the dangers of aquaplaning or ‘surface water’. As temperatures have risen this week the Met Office have issued ‘amber’ or ‘yellow’ warnings, telling us to ‘stay indoors and seek shade if outside’. You’d think we were expecting a missile attack from Rocket Man in North Korea.

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