Week 81: Foiling the heat
My skin is getting better. By gently exfoliating and regularly applying emollient cream to my face (as frequently as one an hour when it was at its worst), that has now mostly recovered from the outbreak of eczema. It still feels a bit rough in places, but it looks fine.
As for the rest of me, a dermatologist diagnosed pompholyx, or dyshidrotic eczema. Normally, when you search for a disease on the internet, you find photos of the worst examples of it. But my feet were so much worse than anything I saw online. I think that might be bad.
I now have some very strong prescription-only steroid cream that seems to be helping my hands and feet. The skin is still peeling off, but it’s a lot better underneath. The biggest annoyance now is that I can’t unlock my phone with my fingerprint. The lack of fingerprints would make me an ideal thief if it weren’t for the amount of DNA evidence I’m shedding everywhere in the form of skin flakes.
Monday morning started with a power cut that began just after seven o’clock, as we wondered why the radio had gone off. I don’t envy the people who had to dig a hole in the road in 39C heat to fix it, but they managed it within a few hours and our fridge and freezer were fine.
With no power and the hottest temperatures ever recorded on their way, I escaped to an air-conditioned office in Canary Wharf on Monday and Tuesday for £25 (ex. vat) per day. It was money well spent. It’s only one stop on the tube, and even though the London Underground is notoriously hot, it was still cooler than the temperature outside. The nice thing about Canary Wharf as a destination was that the buildings are linked by air-conditioned and mostly subterranean passages.
I’m a little surprised that WeWork is still a going concern, but it seems to be hanging on, and I was very glad of it. The only noticeable differences between the WeWork in Canary Wharf and the one where I was working in Tokyo in 2020 were the brands of tea and the lack of fancy robot toilets. They even still have free beer on tap. I never had the chance to get a free beer in Japan, so I made up for it this time.
It made for a change of scenery, too, and I felt quite energised and had a productive couple of days. I might go there again, even if it’s not unbearably hot at home. Even though I was working in a place with lots of people, it felt much less oppressive than an open-plan office. I think the fact that the other conversations were irrelevant and ignorable helped, as did the fact that I didn’t have to worry so much about who was looking over my shoulder. No one cares if I look productive, and being productive is much less effort than looking productive.
I put some foil on our bedroom window – just regular kitchen foil – and it made a huge improvement. Beside the fact that none of the built environment here is designed to cope with heat, the fact that we’re quite far north means that the summer days are very long. When the sun rises just after five in the morning, it has a lot of time to shine on our bedroom window. That makes it unpleasantly hot in the morning, and heats the room up to such an extent that it stays hot even after the sun has moved on in the afternoon.
However, foil isn’t a permanent solution, so I’m going to install a blackout blind. If that isn’t enough, there are window films available that should reduce the heat further, but I’ll try the blind first.
What’s the opposite of a hot water bottle? You can put cold water into a “hot” water bottle, but you’ll struggle to fit much ice in there. What does work brilliantly, however, is one of those blue (the colour isn’t actually important, but they’re usually blue) freezer blocks wrapped in a towel. A couple of times last week, I went to sleep hugging one, and it was still cold in the morning.