Feelin' hot, hot, hot


On Monday it was 37.3 degrees Celsius here in Prague, making it the hottest July 16 since records began at the Clementinum weather station in 1775. It was half a degree short of the city's all-time high of 37.8 Celsius, a record set in 1983. But when it's that swelteringly, brain-bakingly, ridiculously hot what difference does one half-degree Centigrade make? Either way, you just do not want to set foot outside if you can at all avoid it.

During the winter months I occasionally curse the coldness of my apartment building, which was built in the 1930s. But when it's close to 100 Fahrenheit, home sweet home is the only place I can find relative relief. The trick, I find, is to keep all the windows closed after about 9 am and keep the shades drawn. When you get in, take a barely luke-warm bath. And don't just do something, sit there. By which I mean, keep movement to a minimum.

At work it's another matter, unless you have air conditioning, which we don't. (Except that is in the studio, where it tends to dry your throat out, which is a bad thing, obviously). When there's a heat wave our office is simply a sauna. Here the same rule applies: move as little as possible, not neglecting to pretend to work, of course.

There were reports that government offices without air conditioning let some staff go home at lunchtime on the hottest days last week; bosses apparently chose which workers to allow to leave according to age and gender (though the papers didn't say whether men or women got preferential treatment in this respect).

Prague Castle Guard | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International
Employees at the Education Ministry received an email with advice on what to do if the heat made them feel ill: "Place a cold cloth on your head or the nape of your neck. Wetting one's hair can help cool down the head. In a state of collapse call for medical help".

State officials weren't the only people given some relief; the gates of Prague Castle were unmanned between 11am and 4pm, as Castle guards were ordered to stay indoors. One told a newspaper he didn't remember such a thing ever happening before. His colleague pointed out, though, that going out at 4pm in 37 degrees Celsius wasn't exactly a barrel of fun either.

But spare a thought for poor old tram drivers. It's bad enough for passengers, with temperatures of around 50 degrees Celsius being recorded in trams. Imagine what it's like, though, spending a whole shift in the driver's cabin with temperatures apparently close to 60. Even thinking about it makes me want to go and lie down in a darkened room.