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Excerpts from our latest publication


From the minister

Heat

It’s 29 degrees outside, and the view from my window reveals a horde of citizens who look as if they just came off the beach at Marbella. Shorts, unflattering tops and flip flops usually consigned to the holiday clothing section of the wardrobe. Hats designed for the Australian Outback or the karaoke night at the Torremolinos hotel. It’s hot for Britain, and no mistake.

I grew up in Florida, where every summer day touched 100 degrees. I don’t think we were aware of its being particularly hot. It was just the way things were. Mosquitoes died against the screened windows, and the fans turned constantly. When I was twelve, my parents bought a newfangled window air conditioning unit and put it in their bedroom. We three siblings would go in and sit on the floor, enjoying the arctic blast from the vents. I believe that was the first time I realised that it was hot outside.

Since then, I have lived in three tropical and sub-tropical countries, and eight years in Southern Spain. One Christmas in Botswana, the house we lived in got so warm that the whole family — three of us — slept on our pickup truck. I was once in Delhi, when the mercury touched 115. That was hot.

When I lived in an Andalusian village house, I learned that a dwelling was actually a machine to keep out that very thing that tourists make expensive annual pilgrimages to find: the sun. Shutters and blinds are employed in different ways at different times of day. But the goal is to keep solar heat from making sleep impossible.

In all those places, a temperature of 29 degrees Celsius would have felt cool, or at least not unpleasant. Gilly and I returned to our flat on the coast of Spain one Christmas day in time for the Queen’s Speech. The time and temperature clock on the corner said it was 31. It was fine, with a nice breeze from the sea.

Then why am I sweating and swearing on a day like this? Either I have lost my natural thermostat due to age or custom, or heat in Britain is worse than heat in Africa.

In the heat wave of 2003, more than 14,000 people in France died — mostly the elderly. It seems that having a basically agreeable climate makes you more vulnerable when heat strikes. And because of the status quo, houses are built to withstand cold — not heat. I have been shocked to learn that most people don’t even open the hatch to their lofts when it gets hot, something any school kid in warm climates knows. It lets the lighter warm air rise and the cooler air fall into your living space. And people throw open their curtains and blinds to “let the light in”, without being aware that they are all but guaranteeing a sweaty night.

We are told that the climate is warming. Mostly, we just switch channels when some scientist comes on to remind us of this. But last year was the hottest on record, and this one is shaping up to beat that. We know we need to pay attention, but… it all seems so hopeless.

By the time you read this, the temperature may be back to its usual kindly level. We will forget having to change shirts twice a day. But we know that the heat outside — now and in future — is more than an inconvenience.

It’s a warning.

- Art Lester


God's Days

There are two days in the week upon which and about which I never worry -- two carefree days kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday. Yesterday, with its cares and frets and pains and aches, all its faults, its mistakes and blunders, has passed forever beyond my recall. It was mine; it is God's.

The other day that I do not worry about is Tomorrow. Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its perils, its large promise and performance, its failures and mistakes, is as far beyond my mastery as its dead sister, Yesterday. Tomorrow is God's day; it will be mine.

There is left, then, for myself but one day in the week - Today. Any man can fight the battles of today. Any woman can carry the burdens of just one day; any man can resist the temptation of today. It is only when we willfully add the burdens of these two awful eternities - Yesterday and Tomorrow - such burdens as only the Mighty God can sustain - that we break down.

It isn't the experience of Today that drives men mad. It is the remorse of what happened Yesterday and fear of what Tomorrow might bring. These are God's Days ... Leave them to Him.

-- Robert J. Burdette


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