How to survive a heatwave

Mon 2 – Sun 8 July 2018

Thriving in a heatwave

It is so bloody hot in London. You can tell by the way the grass has turned yellow and all the dust about because there is no moisture in the air. My partner Dave is on constant alert watering his beloved and award-winning balconies to try to ensure that his plants survive the heatwave.

The thing to do is to live like they do in parts of southern Europe when these temperatures (and worse) dominate summer. Do the minimum possible and just live with the weather. Stay indoors, outside stick to the shade, and take advantage of cooler times earlier and later in the day.

hot hot hotActually, I like London in the summer. It always feels like being on holiday but without the hassle of physically travelling. I much prefer to be away in warmer and drier places when London and the UK is grey and cold.

The journey that is in your head

There is part of me that would love to be always travelling though not necessarily moving about. And I think that frame of mind is what has helped me over the last few years with my mental health. The idea of constant impermanence (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and enjoying the never-ending journey rather than thinking about getting or being somewhere.

I am always amazed by people who think they have to travel to the end of the world to discover themselves and happiness. It’s a frame of mind. Yes journey but do it in your head and see what you can find near to home. ‘Travel broadens the mind’ – very true but you need an open mind in the first place. And if you have an open mind then the battle is half won anyway. πŸ™‚

Books and Reading

So my primary piece of advice to survive a heatwave is simply to do as little as possible. There is some truth in the ‘manana’ stereotype of Iberians – though this is also based in part on British racist attitudes. One of my favourite things full-stop is reading, and it gets better on a hot day. Indeed after my jog-run on Sat and lunch I skipped Pride (glad it’s there though) to spend the rest of the day snoozing and reading whilst listening to the footie on the radio.

‘Changing Trains’ – a decent first novel

This is the book I read for the Velvet Page book club at Waterstones Piccadilly on Thurs evening. It’s a self-published book and we were fortunate to have the author, Mark Johnson, there to talk. Book Club member Robert is absolutely brilliant at getting authors along to talk. It does change the dynamic of the meeting which rarely becomes critical but allows us to explore more about the book. Always nice to hear from someone who enjoys the process of writing.

I liked this book. It’s the author’s first and in many ways is a good old-fashioned story rather than something too complex, multi-layered, and experimental as with ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ I read last week. I think the author sees it as a coming-out story. What I took from it was more the power of travel to change lives and minds.

It’s the story of a young Scottish lad going inter-railing in the 80s. A time when Europe was a far more different and exotic place without modern communication links. The main character discovers alternatives to his current and expected life. He also meets other young men and has simple, uncomplicated sex – nothing graphic just the simplicity of being young and horny; of desiring and being desired. πŸ™‚

‘The Travelling Bag’ – old style scariness

My other book read last week was this collection of wonderfully old-fashioned ghost/horror stories by the contemporary female author Susan Hill. She is one of my favourite living authors. These are fun stories but none of them are going to keep you awake at night. Indeed, definitely not one of her strongest books and perhaps just written to keep her publisher happy? It is strange how the atmosphere of previous times always suits such ghost and horror stories rather than present day.

Current reading

My current reading is ‘Like a Fading Shadow’ by Antonio Munoz Molina. Now this is a complex and multi-layered book inter-weaving the life of a writer with the story of James Earl Ray on the run in Lisbon after his evil assassination of Martin Luther King.

Dr Who audio adventures: The Cybermen

Carried on listening to these Big Finish stories as I walked around. Great fun though the story was a bit confusing at points. Still nice to have this welcome distraction in my head.

Health and Efficiency

Jog-run during a heatwave

This has become one of the highlights of my week. Back out on Sat morning after a quiet Fri night. This suits me as I no longer enjoy much going out at night and prefer to snuggle up with a good book and get up early to appreciate the crazy city that is London whilst still half asleep.

A decent jog-run with an OK time of just over 1 hour and 4 minutes. πŸ™‚ Main problem was the heat. Even though I went out at 7.45 am, so well before the heatwave got into full-swing, it was boiling. I went off fast and was OK but then slowed in the second half simply because I was so bloody hot. Funny to think I stop running in winter when it is too cold and I came close to calling it quits on Sat because it was too hot.

Details on the progress of my jog-runs can be seen in video form here and in more traditional form here.


Old magazine cover3 times last week which is pretty normal and the minimum I’m aiming for. Tues there was an important meeting at work but I decided it was my day off and delegated attendance to a colleague. Great gym session of cardio and weights which was repeated again on Thurs. Sun had a bit less cardio (no upward treadmill to avoid antagonising my left achilles after my jog-run) but a good lot of weights especially for my legs. πŸ™‚

Health and hospital

To the hospital on Mon night after work for bloods. You get used to it with chronic health problems but it’s still a drag. 6.30 pm appointment which went fine largely thanks to Agnes the lovely nurse practitioner who saw me. Late appointments can go either way – it’s quiet and efficient or it’s over-run plus people who are needed having finished and gone home.

NHS is 70 years old. Happy Birthday to something that isn’t always perfect but, my God, we would be devastated if it wasn’t there. People don’t die on the streets because they can’t afford treatment like in the USA and parts of the developing South.


Here is the difference I am trying to make

This heatwave makes me believe more strongly than ever that global warming is a real thing and that we must do everything we can to try to makes amends asap. The heat is great but it causes us to use more electricity (fridges, fans, etc) and raises sea-levels. Also I have been shocked at the litter that was around after Saturday following Pride and the England win. What I am trying to do to combat climate change and create a more sustainable planet:

  • Eating less full-stop and particularly eating less meat and fish
  • Using my recycle cup as much as possible
  • Reducing my use of plastic
  • Producing less rubbish full-stop
  • Walking whenever this is feasible
  • Generally consuming less i.e. using the library rather than buying books, and getting secondhand clothes from charity shops

Innovation and Creativity

Consultation at Esmee Fairbairn: 3 realisations

I love doing things that are innovative and creative – this is what I try to do through my paid work. Mon afternoon I was at the large funder Esmee Fairbairn for a consultation on its future strategy around funding digital projects. Good to see so many colleagues who, like me, are into tech. Three particular things I took away from the day.

woman using mobileFirst, you need to be enthusiastic. If we as funders aren’t excited about the possibilities of tech and the ability to do things differently then why should the projects be that we fund?

Dave is backSecond, there is an elephant-trap that many fall into of going on about ‘the digitally disenfranchised’. If we focus on them then we are not doing tech innovation.

Yes, we need to take everyone with us but the way to do that is not always to go at the speed of the slowest people in the group. Interesting how many ‘digitally disenfranchised’ actually do use tech but not that we feel comfortable with i.e. to gamble, for porn, to bully, or just to gossip.

progress being madeFinally, I think there is a big age divide developing across society and it’s young vs old. Let us be honest that old people have power in terms of jobs and money. And they don’t like giving up this power at the risk of becoming obsolete and unimportant.

But the key thing is to give young people a chance and let them achieve where we have failed. The duty of everyone is to nurture and encourage the next generation. πŸ™‚

Nissa and the future of ‘Tech for Good’

Apart from the Esmee consultation, there was a real lack of good external conversations last week. Instead there were several internally-focused meetings and I concentrated on getting my work emails down to manageable numbers. Indeed, in doing so I responded to many and set up meetings in the near future.

One good chat was on Fri morning with my old job-sharer Nissa. She is freelance now at Think Social Tech. It was hard at first but now she is really enjoying herself and doing some interesting work (such as running the Esmee consultation event). Wasn’t sure she would make our meeting at Victoria with the train disruptions (no Gatwick Express – that would be fun to start or end a holiday πŸ™ ) but was OK.

We particularly talked about the future direction of Tech for Good including highlighting successful business / revenue models, nurturing more support agencies and developers / designers, as well as changing the way funders work with digital projects rewarding achievement of milestones rather than giving guaranteed funding.



lee alexander mcqueenMe and Dave went to the ICA on Tues afternoon to see this film about the fashion designer Alexander McQueen (cool and dark cinemas are always a good idea during a heatwave πŸ™‚ ). It is actually an old-fashioned type of film about his life with interviews, old film, and home-shot stuff. Clearly he was a bit of a fashion genius but went off the rails. Indeed, it was sad to see him change from a fat, cheeky east-end lad into a skinny, drug-riddled, boring fashionista. πŸ™

A tragic story of how success can destroy people. I was most impressed with his sister who dealt with the simultaneous death of their mother and Lee’s suicide.

Personal Development

The good habit sticks

I am so happy that I have got my habit in place of doing some Duolingo language learning and coding practice on the apps Mimo and Grasshopper before I go to sleep – which is also normally preceded by a bit of reading. Obviously to be proficient at a language or be a coder then it will take more than this dabbling. But it’s a start and keeps my brain alive to new things. πŸ™‚

Reducing the email burden

The other good news last week was my assault on emails both personal and work. The latter are down to under a hundred – all read with them being kept in case they are useful or because I can’t decide what else to do with them. Personal are also under a 100 though those aren’t all read yet. The key task now is maintaining this if not getting it even lower. Is zero emails a realistic target? πŸ™‚

The Week Ahead:

  • Carry on with my chilled attitude to the heatwave and keep the relaxed traveller state of mind
  • 3 work days, the usual suspects: Mon, Wed, Fri. But I still have a day of TOIL owed and I might take it on Fri (or perhaps the week after).
  • Dave is off to Germany for a break from Wed for a week. I’m going to enjoy the space though I think he really wants me to ask him not to go so giving him the opportunity to decide not to.
  • Days off Tues and Thurs though I need to pop into work for a small meet on Thurs afternoon
  • Gonna finish reading the book byΒ Antonio Munoz Molina and start a new one
  • Keep on with my language and coding learning on Duolingo, Grasshopper and Mimo
  • Continue to attack my emails both personal and work to get the numbers down
  • 3 gym sessions and a jog run
  • Definitely gonna watch some films either at home or at cinema – problem with the latter is cost
  • Listen to a new Dr Who audio adventure

And Finally…

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