Unlike the sun worshiping British I have sat out the current heatwave behind closed drapes slathered in sun screen. I don’t need a sun tan and sunshine is over rated if you’ve lived most of your life just ten degrees shy of the equator.
Of course I do understand the British obsession with weather and sunshine. I arrived here in February expecting that spring was round the corner only to meet the coldest spring in recorded history and spend the next 3 months shivering in my inadequate clothing. I would worship the sun too if I had to stay in doors shivering half the year.
Temperatures didn’t start to soar till early July, a couple weeks ago. and they came with warnings of a heatwave. The headlines warned of tropical weather and temperature highs of 27 oC. In May a friend in Abuja celebrated 25 oC at night. Its not uncommon to get egg poaching highs of 40 oC in Abuja.
The night before I left Abuja I slept in front of the open front door and showered three times before dawn, it was that hot and the power was out. Lagos is even worse because of the humidity. (I was convinced the Universe was conspiring to ensure I didn’t get homesick and rush back in a hurry.) So warnings of British heat wave seemed a bit of joke to me.
The weather is no joke to the British, everyday the Met Office, Public Health England and Her Majesty’s physician have been issuing warnings to their citizens to be careful, to wear sunscreen, their hats and to drink lots of water. They issued is a Level 3 Heatwave alert leaving me to wonder what a Level 4 is, emergency evacuation to the Falklands? (Could that be why they fought so hard to keep those islands?)
Some media reported that over 700 people have died already as a result of the heatwave, others dispute the data. Does the threat of imminent death keep the British cowering indoors? Of course not! These are the people that conquered half the world! The parks, the beaches and every outdoor bench is wall to wall with people every day since the sun came out.
Even daily reports on TV and radio of overwhelmed emergency and accident services treating heat related sickness, mostly sunburn, but a few more serious, have not stopped the British trooping out in great numbers to revel in this unprecedented weather. Still heat related distress can be quite serious.
My Nigerian brethren of the village variety always teased me about white people not being strong (because I am half white). I rejected the taunts but I must admit I am reconsidering. I mean seriously, people dying at 31 oC? Then again black people freeze to death at 22 oC and that’s supposed to be the optimal temperature for office productivity.
I have been saying it for years that the propensity by my working class Nigerian brethren to run around at midday in scorching temperatures exceeding 35 oC cannot be good for health or longevity. Now the British public health service confirm my suspicions that heat also affects mood and mental health. They have already come to the conclusion they are ill prepared to deal with a heatwave.
In Nigeria we are stronger. Yes, that is why all those drivers of un-air-conditioned vehicles fight in Lagos go slow. It is the heat. Working class Nigerians believe there is great virtue in hard work and look busy even if they aren’t doing anything productive. Laziness is conidered a character flaw and a little bit of sunshine is no excuse for laziness. The working poor measure their value in hardiness.
Meanwhile, the oga on top takes long lunch breaks very much like the civilized Spanish siesta. After his pounded yam and afang his chauffeured luxury SUV deposits him at a hotel where a senorita awaits in a cool dim room. He won’t return to the office till the sun starts to go down. It will be a long day in hell before he actually thinks its appropriate to warn the ignorant that they should stay out of the sun. For now its his privilege.
Well, I am a child of two worlds; just like I never went out between the hours of 11am and 4pm in Nigeria I am not about to follow follow my British friends to hang out in the sun. (I even sat under an umbrella AND a sunhat on a Brazil beach) I tried it exactly once, the day my bikini arrived from H&M by special courier. After 10 minutes I excused my self and retreated to the shade where I shall spend the rest of the summer with or without a heatwave.
Cheers to the sun worshiping Brits.