Parts of China are having a heat wave, and Beijing is one of the places where the temperatures have been unusually high for the beginning of July.
For the last week and a half it has been very warm, and in the past three days the thermometer has hit the 39°C mark. According to the forecasters we have a few more days of this brain-boiling heat, then electric storms and rain are predicted – and not a minute too soon as far as I am concerned.
Beijingers seem to have a variety of ways of dealing with hot weather. Firstly, and most unattractively, is what is referred to as the Beijing Bikini. Men (and it is only men) roll up their shirts/t-shirts up under their armpits and expose their bellies. It is a fashion that is rarely practised by those who have a superb six-pack torso; no, it is entirely the habit of those who are proud owners of a sizeable belly, and believe me there are a helluva lot of them!
Women on bicycles add to the hazards of the road by riding along holding a parasol or umbrella over their heads to shield them from the sun. Many of them also wear long white arm covers – elasticated at upper-arm and wrist with a cotton tube in between – which will prevent their arms from burning.
Most places have air-conditioning to a greater or lesser extent, and people are staying inside as much as possible. There are two classes of bus, those with and those without air-con, (there is a slightly higher charge for the air-con buses) and it doesn’t take a genius to work out which type are more popular just now.
And of course there are fans. These cultural icons are in common use by men and women alike. The other night I was in a restaurant (air-conned) when one of my hosts summoned the waitress who rushed to bring him a fan it was obviously not an unusual request.
Pity the poor pandas with their thick pelts, the panda sanctuaries and zoos have been supplying them with huge blocks of ice, which they cuddle, lie on, and eat. Actually I quite fancy sleeping on a block of ice myself!