Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Last week I attended a very special reunion with two of my classmates from the 1950’s-era American Dependents School in Tehran. Don’t bother looking it up. ADS only existed for a few years before it was renamed the Tehran American School (TAS), described on its webpage as a real American school of 2,000 students, complete with sports teams and cheerleaders. The erupting Iranian Revolution put an end to TAS in 1978, but the alumni remain enthusiastic. Their reunion will be held in August.
In contrast, few Americans lived in Tehran when my school, ADS, opened in 1954. Its simple brick building welcomed 94 American students in grades K through eight. Starting with only ten children in our fourth-grade class, we got to know each other pretty well over the 2-4 years each of us stayed. So when three of us get together, it’s a reunion.
We gathered at Mary’s house in Upper Quinton, about six miles south of Stratford-upon- Avon, in a comfortable off-grid sort of way, sharing the stories of our lives, sometimes lingering over our morning tea and toast until we noticed it was time to go out to lunch. I can testify that turning off your cell phone is a powerful way to keep you situated in the moment. These were moments worth savoring.
Before we left, the headlines about Heathrow Airport in London were discouraging. The pictures showed lines of people going outside and around the building. Mountains of lost luggage. On top of that, a record heat wave would bring temperatures to over 100 F for the first part of our stay. But we were raised by fearless travelers, so we went anyway.
Heathrow: When we landed at Heathrow, the pilot told us to stay seated because they didn’t have a place for us to pull up and disembark. “Here it starts,” I thought. Not what you want to hear after a ten-hour flight. But ten minutes later the place had cleared and we were able to leave the plane after all. It took almost an hour for the luggage to get on to the carrousel, a symptom of the staff shortage that affects businesses all over England as a result of COVID and Brexit. Still, we did get all our luggage. We heard that for passengers traveling between London and the continent it was much worse.
Heat wave: Yes, it was hot on Monday and Tuesday. In parts of southern California, July temperatures of over 100 are not unusual, but air conditioning is nearly universal. Not so in Europe and the UK. Without the infrastructure, this level of heat is devastating. Schools were closed. Many stores were closed as well. The zoo was closed and the BBC report ended on a cheerful note with pictures of people hosing down the larger animals and treating the monkeys, pandas, and parrots to healthy ice lollies containing nuts, seeds, and meal worms. The seals preferred frozen fish. (see My London, below).
Tarmac buckled, closing two airports. Some roads, where the asphalt overlies a concrete bed, bulged and cracked. People were advised to stay home and the newspapers gave tips on staying cool, aided no doubt by The National Health Service’s newly updated 47-page Heatwave Plan, first published on May 13, 2014. It has alert levels, heat tolerances for rails and subways, a detailed communication flowsheet, and a “Beat the Heat” poster where the “dress appropriately” picture was posed for by the Invisible Man.
As for us, we went for a swim and then returned to Mary’s house where the old-fashioned thick walls kept the downstairs cool. By Wednesday we were back to cool cloudy days and even a little rain.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“Heathrow says passenger cap has improved operations,” Reuters, July 25, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/loss-making-heathrow-rules-out-2022-dividend-2022-07-26/
“Extreme weather warning extended to Tuesday,” BBC, July 14, 2022. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-62146168
“Why 100-degree heat is so dangerous in the United Kingdom,” NPR, July 19, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/07/19/1112318803/uk-100-degree-heat-dangerous
“London Zoo gives animals ‘healthy ice pops’ to keep cool in hot weather,” My London, July 18, 2022. https://www.mylondon.news/weather/london-zoo-gives-animals-healthy-24520976
“UK heatwave: how to keep cool and stay safe in 40C,” The Guardian, Sunday, July 17, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jul/17/uk-heatwave-how-to-keep-cool-and-stay-safe-in-40c
“About The Tehran American School,” TAS Association, https://tasassociation.com/about-2/about-tehran-american-school/
“Heatwave Plan for England,” From: UK Health Security Agency, Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/heatwave-plan-for-england
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be written on our memories just as the 1918 Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression, or the Cold War left their mark on past generations. Since March 11, 2020, this blog has examined the modern pandemic experience, drawing on my background as a medical technologist, a historian, and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.