The Another Kind Of Mind Guide to Surviving a Heatwave

18th century ceiling painting of the Sun, with a human style face
The Sun, from the ceiling of the Golden Cross Tavern, Linlithgow, c.1700

It’s too hot. And it’s only going to get hotter over the next few days, much to my disgust. I don’t function at all well in the heat. I’m too pale and very freckly and I don’t tan (no, really). I suspect I may have been a vampire in a previous life – which would actually explain a lot!

So, over the years, I have had to develop a few simple and practical methods to survive a heatwave without melting into a puddle, and I’m sharing them with you since the temperatures are soaring in the UK this week. If you have any cooling ideas yourself, get in touch and I’ll add them to the list.

  1. Keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration can be really nasty. If you have access to a freezer (even an icebox in your fridge), put water bottles in to freeze. You can drink them when the water becomes slushy, or leave it until it has frozen solid. You get cold water for much longer as it defrosts! Tea is also said to have a cooling effect in hot temperatures, although that may be a bit of an old wives’ tale – however, it will take more than a heatwave to stop us Brits from having a cuppa… Lay off the booze though, as that can make dehydration worse.
  2. Electric fans can be a real godsend. Or they can just feel like they’re circulating the hot air, which doesn’t help! Those little battery controlled personal fans are actually quite useful – especially if you have to go out and about since they fit neatly in your bag or pocket. I have a small wind-up fan too, which is great and saves on energy. If you don’t have one of these, technically any piece of paper can act as a fan, but why be boring? Have kids? Sit them down with their felt pens and let them design a fan for you. Then all you have to do is fold it up and perhaps learn about the language of fans as an extra bonus…
  3. This one is very important. Keep an eye on any elderly, ill or disabled friends and neighbours, as well as anyone you know who is pregnant or has recently given birth. The effects of excessive heat can be very serious for people in these groups, especially if they’re on certain types of medication. If you have any queries, phone your GP surgery, 111 or your local pharmacy for more information.
  4. Sunscreen. Obviously. Especially for the young and the very pale (like me) – and also for pets who have pale-coloured skin or fur, as they can burn too. Too much sun can damage the skin and leave it uncomfortably dry, so don’t forget to slather on the aftersun or some nicely scented moisturiser when you get home.
  5. Water your plants…. and yourself! It’s best to water house plants (and/or your garden) early in the morning or later at night when the temperature has dropped . Watering yourself… well, you can use a plant mister or hairdresser’s spray bottle to easily spray your face and body (back of the neck is really nice!) – try putting the bottle in the fridge for an even cooler effect. Lukewarm baths or showers can also help, and, weirdly, my mum always swore by watering our feet with the garden hose!
  6. Look after your pets, especially the furry ones, whether big or small. Check that plenty of water is left out for them and they have a shady place to rest. It’s also important to leave a drink out for any garden birds or wildlife who might not be able to find water elsewhere due to the heat. They will thank you for it.
  7. Coping at home. Keep your curtains or blinds closed, it is so much cooler. There is some debate as to whether you should keep your windows open or shut too. I go with open, and leave internal doors open too, so you can get the benefit of any through-drafts. If your curtains are closed and you live alone, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t wander round starkers (go for it!), but if you must have clothes on I always try to go for something loose and comfortable, preferably made from a thin cotton fabric. At bedtime, get the plant mister out again and gently spritz your bedding with cold water before sleeping on top of the duvet – trust me, it’s blissful!
  8. Coping at work. Avoid public transport if you can! I know from bitter experience that the London Underground on a scorchingly hot summer day has a circle of hell all to itself. And I know all too well how much heat is given out by an office full of electronic devices. Turning off non-essential computers, printers, copiers etc may help, but working from home is probably even better…
  9. EDIT: Look out for wildfires in fields, grasslands, heathland and allotments. They are common in this sort of weather and can cause considerable damage and destruction – the fire that happened in the allotments next to my home a few years back was a frightening experience that came very close to igniting the flats and destroyed a nearby warehouse building in the process. Dial 999 if you see smoke and flames and don’t try to put it out yourself. Let the firefighters take over, they’re bloody good at their job!

Stay safe and stay cool out there, my friends!

I’m getting my skates on…

… as the saying goes! Busy catching up with all the Advent Calendar posts – I’ll be up to date before you know it….

Incidentally, you won’t catch me ice skating this Christmas (or at any time, really), especially not as athletically as this cheerful young lady (above). I’m not sure I could get my leg up that high without falling over on solid ground, let alone on the ice!

In the meantime, you can find lots more Christmas reading here

Another Kind Of Mind Advent Calendar 2021: December 4th

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Santa is a colourful chap, in all senses of that phrase. He’s a bit of a snappy dresser, not afraid to work vivid hues into his unique vintage look. He obviously values comfort and fashion – a cosy coat and hat are clearly essential workwear (it must be proper brass monkeys cold up in that sleigh!), but he has always liked to add a dash of trendy colour to his outfit too. His wardrobe may be almost entirely red these days, but that wasn’t always the case, as we shall see.

The red-coated Santa we all know and love came about in the latter half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, mostly in the United States to begin with, due to a number of factors. These included Thomas Nast’s widely-seen festive illustrations for periodicals like Harper’s Weekly, the continuing popularity of Clement Clarke Moore’s now-classic poem A Visit From St Nicholas (better known as The Night Before Christmas), and various seasonal advertising campaigns. Incidentally, the well-known Coca-Cola tale is a myth – they were neither the first nor the last to use a red clad Santa in their ads.

Prior to that…. well, take your pick. Santa was depicted wearing almost every shade, including red. Blue, green, purple – even black (Goth Santa perhaps?). It may be rather odd to our modern eyes to see Santa in a blue coat riding a motorbike (see below), but personally I think it rather suits him!

The result of all of this colourful chaos means that behind today’s window is a veritable rainbow of Santas. Sort of…

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For more colourful Christmas things from over a decade of festive blogging, click here.

Another Kind Of Mind Advent Calendar 2021: December 3rd

Christmas_Lights_in_Regent_Street,_London,_taken_in_1969_-_geograph.org.uk_-_711206

I’ve written before about the lighting up of London’s major shopping thoroughfares for the festive season and how it brightens up the cold, dark winter days – but my previous posts have all been about the most famous of central London’s shopping thoroughfares, Oxford Street. It seemed only fair to let its near neighbour, Regent Street, get a look in too, so I really had to share these cheery photographs of the Regent Street Christmas lights from 1969.

Regent Street was developed during the early 19th century, and was named after George, the Prince Regent (yes, that Prince Regent, as played by Hugh Laurie in Blackadder the Third). One of the earliest examples of urban planning in Britain, it was the work of the famed Georgian-era architect John Nash and the hugely successful property developer James Burton. This made it a showpiece development and one of London’s most visible and well known examples of royal patronage at the time.

The image at the top of the post is looking from Oxford Circus towards Piccadilly Circus, and the photo above is from the same spot but looking towards the Langham Place end of Regent Street. I love the blurry glow of the Christmas trees above Garrards the jewellers on the right of the latter picture!

And as a bonus, here is a photograph of urban Christmas lights from over a hundred years ago. This festive message dates back to 1916, and was snapped on Canal Street in New Orleans – a city that definitely knows how to party, all year round!

For more Christmassy posts to light up your day, click here.

Another Kind Of Mind Advent Calendar 2021: December 2nd

I’m terribly sorry, it’s a bit noisy in here, you’ll have to speak up….What was that? No, I SAID YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP, I can’t hear you over all the noise these darn kittens are making…

So, yes, the Grumpy Victorian Kittens are back and they’re behind the second door of our Advent Calendar. This time, they’ve (allegedly) been having music lessons, although I suspect they still need quite a bit more practice!

This festive feline quartet are the stars of a trade card produced by the late 19th century American coffee producers, the Woolson Spice Company. This novel form of advertising became very popular with the consumer and introduced not only these colourful, collectable cards (which often had a seasonal theme), but also promotional giveaways of the ‘collect x number of wrappers and get a free y’ type that we are still familiar with.

What a kitten marching band has to do with selling coffee though, I have no idea…

Over ten years of Christmas things (with added bonus grumpy kittens) can be found here

Vintage Advertising: Christmas Shopping

Last week saw the annual reappearance of Black Friday, which apparently means the Christmas shopping season is now officially underway. Black Friday started life as an American tradition in which stores and other businesses began their Christmas build-up with sales and special offers that kicked off on the day after Thanksgiving.

There is some evidence to connect the development of Black Friday sales with the Santa parades often held in American towns and cities during the Thanksgiving period.

Continue reading “Vintage Advertising: Christmas Shopping”

Another Kind Of Mind Advent Calendar 2021: December 1st

It’s nearly Christmas again! Before we get started on the festive fun for this year, I’d like to apologise for the mysterious disappearance of the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar in 2020 – the end of last year turned out to be one of those frustrating periods where real life and technical difficulties conspired with spectacularly bad timing to make a right mess of things. So, let’s try this again, shall we!?

Last year we met the Wheat family from Fort Lauderdale in Florida and their somewhat unusual floating Christmas tree. I was therefore amused to come across another photograph from the same sequence, which shows the family, in the pool, decorating their bizarre aquatic evergreen.

It was immediately obvious that this had to be the picture behind the first door of this year’s Advent Calendar!

More Advent Calendar posts to come! In the meantime, you can find over a decade’s worth of Another Kind Of Mind Christmassy things here.

Happy Halloween!

The Addams Family Halloween (1977) – L-R: Lurch (Ted Cassidy), Morticia (Carolyn Jones) and Gomez (John Astin)

Families come in all shapes and sizes, some more… spooky… than others. The Addams Family are probably the spookiest and coolest of them all! We certainly all love Morticia, Gomez and Lurch in my somewhat gothy family. I hope you and your family are enjoying dressing up for Halloween and eating loads of sweets (save some for me!) – do stay safe and warm out there if you’re trick or treating, and don’t forget to check under the bed for some more spooky stuff here very soon…

Happy Halloween!

Another Kind Of Advent Calendar 2020: December 5th

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Welcome to the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, I’ll be posting a little something unexpectedly Christmassy for you in honour of the festive season. It’s been the weirdest year, so let’s have a bit of fun…

Is it just me, or is this photograph decidedly creepy? All those dolls… The fact that there’s very little information available about it makes it even more mysterious – and most of what I can tell you is frustratingly vague and incomplete.

Taken some time between 1910 and 1915, possibly in New York City, and distributed via the Bain News Service, this image shows a department store Christmas display window absolutely chock-full of a disturbing number of dolls.

The darker side of Christmas presents?

Don’t have nightmares…

If you’re feeling festive, you can find lots more Christmas reading and watching from me here – there are now over a decade’s worth of seasonal posts to explore…

Another Kind Of Advent Calendar 2020: December 4th

Galaxy_195801

Welcome to the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, I’ll be posting a little something unexpectedly Christmassy for you in honour of the festive season. It’s been the weirdest year, so let’s have a bit of fun…

So, do aliens believe in Santa Claus? Do little green men hang their little green stockings up on Christmas Eve? Is Santa’s sleigh actually a UFO (Unidentified Festive Object)? Can Rudolph spacewalk on all four hooves in zero gravity?

According to these fab American pulp sci-fi magazine covers from the late 1950s, the answer to all these questions would seem to be a resounding yes. After last year’s visit to the Christmas celebrations on the ISS, I thought it would be fun to see how fictional spacefarers enjoyed the festive season – so I turned to the pages of one of the most well-known science fiction magazines of the immediate post-war era.

Galaxy Science Fiction may have been somewhat pulpy, but it was also hugely influential and did great Christmas covers (as you can see in the slideshow below). It ran between 1950 and 1980, and was known for publishing work by classic writers like Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, and Harlan Ellison alongside specially commissioned and distinctive cover artwork.

I love the contrast between the determinedly traditional appearance of Santa and the space-age setting in most of these festive cover images – in a lot of ways, this is a reflection of the uncertainties of the period. Post-war reconstruction and the desire for peace and familiarity butted up against the beginnings of the space race and the technology of the Cold War to create something new and perhaps a little unsettling by the middle of the 20th century.

Put simply, these illustrations were bringing our Mr Claus bang up to date, the old and the new neatly combining to create a different take on Santa – something that was already often a feature of 20th century representations of everyone’s favourite seasonal gift-bringer, as we have seen before (at least the reindeer get a look in this time!).

One hopes this space-age, up-to-date Santa manages to get round the whole galaxy on Christmas Eve, and that the aliens remembered to leave out a mince pie or two to fuel his journey…

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If you’re feeling festive, you can find lots more Christmas reading and watching from me here – there are now over a decade’s worth of seasonal posts to explore…