We didn’t have floods in London, but we did have a great deal of rain.
Day after day, mostly chilly, showers, heavy showers, the odd thunderstorm, a bit of hail and lots of steady downpour.
It is of course bad news for the retail trade dependent on seasonal selling; Pale thin linen isn’t high on the wardrobe list when the sky is battleship grey. Picnic equipment isn’t needed. There isn’t (yet) a waterproof barbecue. And sales of gumboots have improbably overtaken sales of sandals, espadrilles and other footwear for warmer weather.
As the temperature swung between medium low and a bit higher, we all sneezed, complained and muttered to each other that we were tired of the rain.
And yet – the meteorological gurus say that we are short of water after two dry winters and recently severely depleted rainfall.
It would be best – you can hear them rolling this round their collective mouths – if this sort of weather continued for the rest of the year.
Weather is one of the few things you can’t lay at the door of politicians.
Weather systems have causes, or are at the least subject to influence, but most of us don’t care how we got here.
We are only know that we are in the umpteenth week of unseasonable downpour and mightily sick of umbrellas and raincoats, damp shoes and sniffles.
But the Olympics were estimated to be pulling in an extra one million people, further straining the bulging seams of the capital, people who need to wash, eat, drink and void themselves, all of which takes a lot of water – more in this country than in many because our systems use a lot. We have always had water. A shortage of it is a new idea to us.
Years ago I wash washing my hands under a flow when my hostess reached over and turned off the tap.
“We don’t do that in Africa” she said. “Water is scarce. We save it.”
Where they were then, we are now.
And like every other major concern, response to saving water is personal.
Our last dray summer got me to use the shower more than the bath because received wisdom said showers used less water.
I have long conserved rainwater for the garden.
Though I wish someone would explain why running the tap, whether for teeth cleaning or washing up, seems to engender a sort of pleasure. I do try to turn the tap off but I am aware that I prefer it running.
What I don’t know is why.
But when we start to consider a major influx of humans into an already crowded city, you know that water will be needed for all sorts of thing, in quantity, and that getting athletes, the entourages and the crowds to queue at standpipes isn’t viable.
And where are they are going to relieve themselves?
A friend came back from Istanbul saying there were lavatories (both hole in the ground and pedestal variety) all over the place, and directions to find them.
We are mean in the provision of water closets: public lavatories were closed down, centers for the homeless, the erotic, the drug taker and the most appalling excretal behavior. So now we have the old/new experience of increasing numbers relieving themselves in the street – I’ve just seen my first woman and my third man, this year. All in areas far from run down.
The big stores provide facilities (only Harrods charges) but in far too many restaurants and bars, the facilities are poor or none. And sadly the exclusivity of a place doesn’t mean that its toilet facilities match – oh, I could tell you stories.
In Florence (personal experience again though I know there is no relation between the size of the city and the size of London), the smallest cheapest bar has some kind of lavatory (sorry I hate the word toilet), somewhere to wash your hands, loo paper (not always soft) and a towel or hand drier. The astounding figures for reduction of infection in hospital highlight that washing your hands afterwards isn’t a nicety, it’s essential. No wash? No pee.
I wonder if that statue is still on the books which provide that a person may go to the door of any dwelling in the land and ask to use the privy. I’ve always thought that was useful, with or without the Olympics