HERE WE go again. It’s the first spell of hot weather this summer and the rail network has gone into meltdown – literally. First Great Western claim it is the ‘wrong sort of heat’. Already the operator has cancelled some fast-track services between London Paddington and Henley-on-Thames and they have warned of further disruption in the Thames Valley area after Network Rail imposed speed restrictions on the line.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “As rails are made out of steel, they expand as they heat up and are subject to strong compression. This has to be managed to reduce the risk of the track buckling. If the track does buckle, the line must be closed and the track repaired before services can resume, causing considerable disruption”. A snotty-nosed kid with a couple of physics lessons under his belt could have told us that. It’s not rocket science. But, you ain’t seen nothin yet. It is going to get even hotter. Forecasters say Britain will top Rio de Janeiro in the mercury stakes over the next few days, which has sent the ‘elf and safety’ police into a frenzy. They are issuing statements left right and centre warning about ‘hundreds of deaths’. We are being urged to stay out of the sun at peak times and keep ourselves hydrated. Really?
The heatwave has prompted officials to issue a level 2 health warning, amid fears that scorching temperatures could kill. People with respiratory illnesses, the elderly and very young are all being warned to stay out of the midday sun, while those irritatingly sniffly hayfever sufferers are being warned to take extra preventative measures as the pollen count and UV levels are extremely high. It’s only been summer for about five minutes! A statement should be issued warning us all that this hot spell won’t last long, so make the most of it. Open a bottle of cold Chardonnay, get in the garden and switch the sprinkler on before the hose pipe bans start.
Not content with warning us about the bleeding obvious, we’ve also been issued a whole host of instructions about how to keep our food safe in the heatwave and the dangers of barbecued sausages. The Food Standards Agency has said that eating al fresco could make us seriously ill. Apparently dirty barbecues and those tongy things that go with them are the culprits. Having someone poke a sausage and then a burger with the same fork is one of the biggest No No’s of the British summer apparently. Even John Oxford, emeritus professor in virology at Queen Mary’s College, London has joined in. He says: “A juicy medium steak is fine on a barbecue but don’t try the same trick with a burger. This is because most of the bugs live on the surface of raw steak where contamination has occurred during the butchering and are killed during the cooking process. Beefburgers and sausages, where the meat is minced, can have bacteria spread throughout. The best way to check that your meat is properly cooked is to use a meat thermometer. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, spear the meat with a skewer and check the juices run clear. Cutting into a burger will quickly reveal if it is pink – which means it’s underdone”. You don’t say!
But didn’t Prof forget to warn us that the skewer needed to be clean as well – or at least untouched by another deadly burger…
MEANWHILE, share the frustration of Bristolian Richard Gray. Having waited eight months for a disabled parking bay to be painted outside his house, one appeared this week. Later that same day he received a letter from the council telling him the entire road was being resurfaced in two days’ time. He contacted the council and said he could tell the girl on the end of the phone was having to stop herself laughing. Right hand know what the left hand is doing? Certainly not!
Kevan Blackadder is a media consultant who runs Blackadder Media Limited. Kevan was previously editor of the Gloucestershire Echo and assistant editor of the Bristol Post. A Cumbrian who moved to the South West “for a couple of years” in the 1980s, he can’t quite believe he’s been there ever since.