What a week it was for ... Brize Norton

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Indy Lifestyle Online
All of Britain bathed in sweat this week, but nowhere more so than Brize Norton, a small Cotswold village in Oxfordshire. Hitherto best known for its RAF base, it was this week's heatwave hot-spot, recording 33.7C in the shade.

"The High Street looks like Corfu," beams Paul Brightwell, the local police inspector. "People are enjoying themselves." No overheated tempers or indecent states of undress? "This is west Oxfordshire, we don't get that sort of thing here."

The official line soon melts. "Well, a few youngsters have taken to nude swimming at three in the morning in the local open-air swimming pool. But no harm done." The skinny-dippers escaped with a caution - "and once we'd got rid of them, we had a look round and thought we might go in ourselves."

Tuesday was a record day for numbers at the pool. "It's absolutely wonderful up there. It was built by the people of the town, and we're all having a great time using it," says deputy town clerk Margaret Tinner.

Down at Astrop Farm, Brian Barnett is less enthusiastic. "The crops are burning up, so they're coming into harvest early. And cows mustn't stay out in the heat too long, so we keep bringing them in. The key fear right now is fire. We'd like some rain."

George Fox, mayor of adjacent Carterton, is anxious for the town's flowers. "The tubs and baskets of flowers are still looking very good, though, and I think that reflects the care taken by the local contractors." Protocol at council meetings, Mr Fox admits, has had to slip. Gentlemen are given formal permission to remove jackets.

Lester Giles, manager of the family business, Giles' Toy Shop, is clean out of paddling pools. "As soon as they come in, they get sold. Children want anything they can get their hands on. Power Soakers, water pistols that fire two gallons of water, are very popular - though mostly with young adults."

A laudable level-headedness in the heat is reported by the local doctor, Nicholas Jones. "I've only seen one case of a chap with bad sunburn, and he'd been to the seaside. Most people are very sensible." Wasps have presented the biggest health scare - in July local environmental health officers received a record 330 call-outs.

At the nearby Cotswold Wildlife Park, rhinos are short of mud. "They stay cool by mud wallowing, so we keep hosing to make mud," says assistant curactor Simon Blackwell. "And the emus need spraying once a week, which pulls the crowds. The tapir can be seen lying in its pool; some people think it's dead but it's just keeping cool."

There's wallowing of a different kind at the Osprey pub, where lunchtime trade is brisk. "People are getting hot and bothered," says landlady Sandra Brown tensely. "This heat is lasting a long time."