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heat wave 22

So yeah, it’s been HOT. This past week most days it’s got up to about 45º at peak hours and only “cooling down” to about 27º overnight, and it looks to be staying that way for a while yet. It’s been amusing to watch my Twitter timeline and folks in London crying HEATWAVE at 32º (overnight 16º). When I point out what an actual heat wave is the inevitable response is that we are used to these temps and that our streets, etc are better equipped (narrow and shady) and that we all have AC down here. Which of course is the opinion of people who have only stayed in the touristic centre here at hotels or AirBnBs. But if you step outside the old town, even five minutes away, suddenly the streets are wider, no shade anywhere. The reality of living here is quite different.

First of all NOBODY is well-equipped to be out and about for long at 45ºC, especially out in the sun. It’s brutal, it hurts and it’s unhealthy. So it’s not that we are “used to it” here, it’s more that we know how to live with it, using coping strategies. Whenever possible, we just don’t go out. I mean, I grew up in Manitoba and -40º was not unheard of during peak winter. So when it got too cold we turned up the heat as much as we could afford to and stayed home. Plus houses there are properly insulated. Not so in Spain.

I remember my first 18 years here in Sevilla, living on the top floor (3rd European, 4th North American) of a building without either a lift or AC/ Heating. Sure I had lots of lovely balconies, but they all had single-paned windows and didn’t close “air tight” by any stretch of the imagination, so it was freezing in winter and a fucking oven in summer. Looking back I honestly don’t know how I managed, other than, well, I was 20-30 years younger.

Now I am in a smaller place, again on the top floor (European 2nd this time) and facing north, so at least I don’t have to shutter everything up in the afternoon and live in darkness all summer. But it’s still bloody hot. By noon it’s 31º IN THE LIVING ROOM. I try to hold off on the AC until 2 pm when the cheaper electricity rates kick in, so often 11-2 is the time I go out to do some shopping and maybe have a quick tapita somewhere. After that I stay home.

But I would never have got through any summer here without electric fans. I have tried to pass on this wisdom to my UK friends but many still prefer to believe that living in southern Spain makes you impervious to HEAT. Trust me. A decent electric fan will cost maybe 25-35 euros. Sure you can go more high-end, but I never have felt the need. Important – get one on a stand so the fan is at face-level when you are sitting down. Get one with wide blades. Also, test it out in the shop to see how loud it is (for sleeping). I was once given a floor fan that looked a bit like a jet engine and ended up sounding like one too. If you can afford it, get one for the living room and also each bedroom, so you’re not always having to move them around.

Even if you have AC, also use the fans. They cost next to nothing to run but THEY MOVE THE AIR AROUND which already makes you feel cooler, even if the air inside your living room is 31º. This means I can keep the AC set fairly low (reaching room temp 26º) but with the fans gently blowing the cooler air over me, well you see my point. AC alone means you have to get your room down to a much colder temp to benefit from it. But AC + fan… it’s a winner.

I don’t know why everyone in the UK doesn’t have a fan or three by now, given that the summers there have been getting progressively hotter over the years, so these heat waves don’t exactly come as a surprise any more. As for here… summers in Sevilla have always been this hot in July and August. Yes, it’s still a heat wave, and no we are never used to it, because we have human bodies just like everyone else does. The difference is we have different customs here, when we go out, what we wear, what we eat and drink, as well as the aforementioned tips for keeping our homes at least coolish. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.  🙂