Brits love a good chat about the weather and what is wrong with it. Summer begins with lots of grumbling about how summer has not begun, and then once it does, instant declaration that it’s ‘too hot’. One place that is definitely ‘too hot’ is all forms of public transport and, in particular, trains. If ill-equipped to deal with leaves on the tracks in winter, some trains are clearly even less capable of handling the sun. ‘Bring water’, signs cheerfully advise at stations, not taking into account that the temperature inside these rolling ovens is high enough to melt tungsten.


On one of my last such journeys, I asked a staff member whether the windows could be opened and was told: ‘Of course not, open windows on trains are VERY dangerous!’. I questioned what would be worse – an open window, or death by spontaneous combustion – at which he closed the argument with: ‘Sweating is good for you’. A second guard was more helpful. ‘There’s a system’, he explained. ‘We open a window at one end of the carriage and one at the other to create airflow’. Now, I’m no expert on airflow, but I can attest to the fact that this particular model wasn’t working. The one silver lining was that – faced with extreme adverse weather conditions – everyone naturally turned very British. Water was shared around, newspapers passed for fanning, lots of stoic smiling. Then came the ultimate British cure for all evils. What’s best for cooling down an overheating commuter? A nice, steaming hot cup of tea, of course. The theory on airflow might be suspect, but this, as everyone knows, is a proven fact.

Maria Smedstad moved to the UK from Sweden in 1994. She received a degree in Illustration in 2001, before settling in the capital as a freelance cartoonist, creating the autobiographical cartoon Em. Maria writes a column on the trials and tribulations of life as a Swede in the UK.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine Ltd.’

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