Hit & Run: Call this a heatwave?
Tuesday 30 June 2009
I ear you have a heatwave. You have my sympathy, you really do. I understand that yesterday, the temperature was due to reach 3C. On Sunday afternoon here in Delhi, the heat index – which tells you how hot it feels when the humidity and heat are combined – was 5C. The minimum temperature, reached at around 5am, was about 3C. Yes, I have real sympathy.
Indians, of course, have had millennia to get used to the hot weather. None of this new-fangled global-warming-hottest-seven-summers-on-record sort of stuff. In the old days, the British elite used to cart themselves off to the hills during the summer and set up base in "stations" such as Shimla. The Mughals beat the heat by building thick, stone-walled buildings and palaces that incorporated architectural features such as courtyards designed to increase the circulation of air.
Modern Delhi, by contrast, is an utter horror. There are 20m people, too many cars, too many rickshaws, too many buildings. The months of May and June are a constant battle to avoid getting fried. Get up after 7.30am and you can forget any exercise out of doors, or at least until nightfall. If you're planning a cool drink on the balcony maybe wait until midnight. Or the winter.
What makes it worse, of course, is the pathetic situation in regard to electricity and water. The hapless city authorities blame the power providers who in turn claim they've been caught out by the unexpected temperatures. Duh. It's India in the summer. It's always hot. And with power cuts in Delhi running from three hours a day to 18, India's burgeoning middle class, which likes to snap up A/C units, fridges and television, sits and melts like everyone else. The poor have been demonstrating and ransacking the electricity company offices.
So how to beat the Indian summer when the power is out and the limp, stuttering fan powered by a back-up battery does nothing more than blow furnace-like air into your face and your over-heating laptop is actually burning your hands?
Here are some tips I've learned that might be of use to you over the next few long, hot days.
1. Try a glass of Jal Jeera, an Indian drink made of water, cumin, mint, asafetida or heeng, lemon and spices that actually cools you down. A little bit. In his classic book, City of Djinns, William Dalrymple claims this drink has greater chilling properties than any fan or A/C unit but the urbane author might be talking about its trendiness factor.
2. Find a shady tree, sit under it. Don't move until November.
3. Buy a generator, power up your A/C and sod the environment getting choked by all those diesel fumes.
4. Get a job in a call centre, allowing yourself to work through the night answering the pathetic whines of Westerners; sleep during the day.
5. Talk to the ice wallah, the man who in every neighbourhood pedals around with a huge chunk of ice wrapped in an old sack. Ask him if there's a job in his freezer.
6. Pray for rain. Did anyone mention the monsoon? Andrew Buncombe
The website that enables your receipt deceit
For members of Parliament, the BBC high command or even the royal family still trying to make their expense claims look worthier falseexpense.com can turn your moat cleaner into a legitimate plumbing emergency, your duck pond into disability access, and a Glasto jolly into a dull weekend conference. For a small fee, the website prints fake receipts for anything from jewellery stores to 24-hour garages, including unique barcodes and store logos. The service, says its CEO Andreas Carthy, provides "evidence for white lies in many situations". Looking at the site's suggested "situations", Hit & Run wonders what Carthy would define as a non-white lie.
An unmisabble message in red capital letters at the top of the homepage reads "For Novelty Use Only". Those novelty uses include: "Pretend an item of fake jewellery you bought is real" (an engagement ring, perhaps?); and "Pretend you were away in a hotel for the weekend" (when you were on a minibreak with your mistress?). 30 per cent of the site's business comes from the UK, Carthy claimed last year. As if we didn't already have enough problems with real receipts, let alone fake ones.
It seems Carthy is happy to encourage immoral behaviour as long as it's not illegal. Among the site's examples of inadvisable usage are "False receipts for insurance fraud" (duh!) and "Claim[ing] false extras on your expense account", which seems a bit counterintuitive from a site called falseexpense.com. Tim Walker
Wimbledon's grave mistake
Every year, Londoners marvel at the enterprise of their SW19 neighbours, as a fair percentage of Wimbledon residents stay with friends for a fortnight, renting their homes at premium rates to Championship tennis fans, players, coaches and media folk. A friend with two houses on the Ridgeway has made £30,000 per fortnight for the last few years. But the news about St Mary's Church in Wimbledon Village seems a step too far. For it's been charging motorists £20 a day to park in the graveyard. Only on the graves of "people whose descendants can't be traced," say the church, heartlessly. But this year some cars were parked on still-visited graves, and there was hell to pay. How far will Wimbledonians go in whoring out their precious turf to tennis buffs? What'll be next? Surely there's a bit of room left on The Downs, in the Ursuline Convent Mixed Infants playground? John Walsh
Money for (next to ) nothing
Get ready for delays at the tills as squint-eyed shoppers study their change closely. Try to be patient, they're hunting for the coinage equivalent of Halley's Comet. The Royal Mint, which has been in the currency business a very long time, has released up to 200,000 20p pieces that bear no date – the first blunder of this kind for 300 years. Anyonewho finds one of the rogue coins is being offered the chance to trade it in for £50. Some may choose to hang on a few decades, however, when the so-called mules could fetch much more. Coins released in 1983 which mistakenly carried the words "new pence" rather than "two pence" are now worth £200 – a thousand fold increase on their face value. So the rogue 20ps could trade at £2,000 by 2035 – not a bad little earner. Jonathan Brown
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