Thursday, August 06, 2015

Coping with the heat in Cyprus

We had a heatwave this week. Temperatures in the shade reached as much as 42C, so were a great deal hotter in the sun. Somebody photographed a digital thermometer in Nicosia, in direct sunlight, showing 57C on Tuesday.

Thankfully this kind of excessive heat is rare, and by Wednesday the temperature had dropped to a more normal 34C. It's made worse because it's very humid. July was remarkably dry; it didn't even get too hot until the middle of the month. August is making up for it. Last Friday, the last day of July, we had some early morning rain - sufficient to produce a puddle on the metal balcony outside one of our doors:

puddle on a metal balcony in cyprus at the end of July

By Sunday, the humidity had arrived in force.

People regularly ask how we 'cope'. I'm the kind of person who's most comfortable at around 20C; I've acclimatised in our years here to the extent that I no longer feel that 25 is unbearably hot; when we run the air conditioning, we set it to 28C and that feels wonderfully cool when it's hotter in the rest of the house and outside.

But we don't run air conditioning all over the house; we just use it in rooms we're using: for an hour or two in the bedroom before going to sleep, in any room where a computer is on, and - if it's unpleasantly hot and humid - when we're eating, or watching a DVD, or playing a board game. I try to do any cleaning or other housework first thing, before 8am, then I have my shower and estivate with the air conditioning in my study.

A shower is a good way of cooling down; sometimes I have another cold shower before going to bed. If we weren't using air conditioning, I would probably have several every day.

Nipping out of my study into the heat for a few minutes isn't a problem, to hang out laundry, or get a drink of water, or even to have something to eat. But my biggest problem has always been food preparation in the heat. Any kind of cooking heats up the kitchen, and since everything takes so much longer in the heat and humidity, it was leaving me drained.

We usually have a bit of bread with cheese, or hummus, or similar for lunch, along with salad or cut up vegetables, or left-over cooked veg. But I have always cooked evening meals (other than Sundays), generally with hot vegetables too. I had made a lot of slow-cooked meals earlier in the year, freezing as much as I could, and we spent the first couple of weeks of July eating those; but they still needed the oven or hob to be on, and vegetables to be prepared and cooked, and side dishes such as rice or potatoes of some kind... and it was exhausting.

I started preparing quick meals - such as omelettes, or tomato sauce with spaghetti and grated cheese - but I still wanted vegetables to go with them. And we were running out of frozen meal portions.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Richard suggested doing no cooking at all until the end of August. I said I'd continue making Sunday lunches; Tim usually joins us, and since I don't use my main computer on Sundays, I tend to air condition the kitchen area. I thought I might cook a quick meal one evening per week, too... but, so far, I haven't.

Instead of cooking, we have eaten a lot of salad. We've cheated, and bought bags of pre-prepared leaves, which are more expensive than just buying lettuce, but have a great deal more variety in them. We've added cucumber, and peppers, and perhaps some grated carrot, or tomato, or nuts or seeds. We've made coleslaw too, and chopped up other random vegetables to eat raw. The healthiest kind of diet is supposed to be 75% raw and we've probably managed that in the last couple of weeks.

We've made sure to include some protein too - cold chicken from Sunday, or egg mayo (yes, I had to boil some eggs but that wasn't too difficult), or tuna mixed with ketchup and mayo, or lentil balls (which I cooked last Sunday).. but we haven't felt the need for any extra starches. There's plenty of carbohydrate in the vegetables.  We've eaten lots of fresh fruit, too, and made some fruit sorbets.

This evening, wanting something slightly different (and with some peaches in the fridge that were starting to get a little soft) I discovered a recipe for salad made of peaches and tomatoes which we both thought absolutely delicious:

To my surprise, neither of us has got bored of salads yet.... we'll see how long it lasts.

Our two kittens have coped with the heat by becoming nocturnal. They didn't go out alone until they were a year old; Alexander then discovered how to get up to our cat flap, and we eventually installed another one to allow Joan more freedom. They go out late evening, and - as far as we know - stay out all night. In the daytime, they collapse:

They don't usually want to be in an air conditioned room, but on Monday and Tuesday they were very glad to be somewhere that enabled them to cool down.

Cleo, by contrast, is loving the heat. She always has done. In Winter she sleeps on beds; in the Spring, for the last few years, she has looked as though she were on her last legs. She's 17 now, a very good age for a cat who goes out. But in the Summer, once again, she seems to have rallied:

Basically, I deal with summer one day at a time. I know it will last well into September, but the humidity should start to drop in a few weeks, and the likelihood of another heatwave will - I hope - reduce. I don't like the feeling of being housebound; I miss going for early morning walks, and feel the lack of exercise. But if I'm in the sun for more than a few minutes - or any excessive heat - I will develop a migraine.

So I stay indoors, venturing out as little as possible, unless we're going to the beach.

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