‘And how is the weather where you are Joan?’
‘Well, Alice it has been another record-breaking day here in London. We have seen temperatures hit the high 30’s and it looks set to continue over the course of the week. This is proving to be a summer to remember!’
‘Yes, it certainly is. I cannot remember a summer likes this one’ says Alice. ‘The grass behind you has lost it colour. When should we expect rains to replenish the area?’
Joan hesitates for a millisecond, ‘ah, now that has been a slight concern… With reservoirs almost drained and arable crops struggling in the drought, farmers have expressed their worry. But admissions for outdoor swimming pools have nearly tripled this month alone!’
Alice in the studio notices co-host Roger shift ever so slightly in his seat. An industrial-sized air condition unit regulates the temperature of the set. It coughs and strains to contribute to the audible drone perceptible in the studio. Roger, constricted by his satin suit, slides on the leather couch trying to find a position where his legs don’t rub against one another. The movement creates a noise like a field mouse chased into a corner. ‘That is promising. And have there been any other increases in the market this week’ continues Alice, trying not to break form.
‘Well, I’m glad you asked. The sale of plastic water bottles has really shot through the roof. With big question markers looming over current reserves water is being imported daily from as far as Norway! The marketing is sizzling with the heat!’ says Joan in mock laughter.
Alice smiles back, ‘that is something. But Joan should this be cause for panic yet? There have been sustained heat waves across central and southern Europe for almost two months. Water levels are plummeting in parts of rural Italy and Greece. And forest fires have swept over parts of Austria that haven’t seen such catastrophe in over a century. What is the feeling on the ground where you are?’
The camera pans out revealing Alice at the top of a large concrete structure. Her hand twitches in a movement directed towards her forehead were sweat rivulets lurk dangerously over an eyebrow. In a split second of professionalism, she resists the urge to wipe them away. ‘People are simply loving the weather after several disappointingly wet summers. Though the disruption to daily commutes as temperatures soar in public transport has been a small price to pay’. Alice’s voice trails off as the sweat droplets break her concentration.
Joan asks, ‘surely there will be no need to go on holiday this summer if things are to continue?’
Alice responds, almost triumphant as if it were her own doing, ‘exactly! The domestic market is buoyant even if the water levels aren’t’. A nervous laughter punctuates the end of her sentence.
The camera’s angle pans out revealing Alice atop a sports centre. She is stood some 20 feet high with panoramic views of a parched and yellowing London in the distance. The large metal buildings behind her push ariels like steel fingers into the thick air. The buildings, despite their size, shimmer in the heat. As the camera focuses back in on Alice it captures a small partition in the railing over toward her left shoulder.
Joan continues, ‘as the government juggles the on-going Brexit negotiation this will likely be a huge positive for the PM. How are the forecasts looking for foreign holiday markers today?’
‘Precisely. There is, of course, no telling how long this weather will last for but recent polls suggest Brits are opting to stay closer to home this year. And who can blame them’. Alice suddenly stops. This time visibly distracted by the perspiration gathering across her upper lip. A hand reflexes quickly across the lower portion of her face, wiping sweat away with the sleeve of her summer suit jacket.
Joan in the office lets out a small chortle. Roger’s face opens with a newfound comfort clearly enjoying Alice’s discomfort. ‘Is it that hot already?’ asks Joan, as if embarrassed by her monetary outburst.
‘Yes, Alice it is in the high twenties’. Her voice is clipped and terser than it was at the start of the conversation. ‘I’m sure it is cooler where you are’. Alice bites at her own displeasure struggling to keep her award-winning professionalism. The sun beats down on her jacket and long cotton dress. They cling to her body, stifled by a breezeless day.
Joan quickly realises the fortuity of her place in the studio this morning. Suddenly registering Alice’s situation, for perhaps the first time, it brings a flood of empathy. ‘Oh, I hope you are okay out there!’ she responds genuinely.
Alice forces a smile. Sweat slides down her face like water off the kitchen sink. ‘Yes, thank you, Joan, it is going to be another beautiful day over all of the United Kingdom. There is, of course, a band of rain that will touch the western highlands and islands of Scotland later this evening.’ Her sleeve meets her face once more offering momentary relief against the sweat.
Joan in the studio gives a look to Roger who is shifting once more in his seat. ‘Oh I see, they will be thankful for that up North’, chimes Joan who is quickly seeing the need to change the topic with Alice. ‘And are they able to play tennis is conditions like this?’
Alice twists her body to the right. In the same motion, she reaches with her right hand aiming it toward the metal railing. The movement has momentarily caught her off-balance. The outstretched hand is clumsily positioned above the railing and her sleeved wrist is first to make contact with the metal. It is damp with sweat dabbed from her brow. The wet sleeve glances of the shiny steal causing her to stumble towards the small gap in the railing. Alice, whose body has become like a compressed spring, is capitulated towards the partition.
In the studio, Joan screams and Roger slowly shakes his head back and forth. The uninterrupted skyline of London is visible in the camera’s lens before the picture quickly fades to black.
Roger shuffles his notes on the desk. His face is fighting to hold composure. Joan lets out an inconsolable sob. Her body heaves up and down shaking from a violent release.
‘Well, I’m sure some will be blaming climate change for what has just happened’ smirks Roger. ‘Anyway, let’s just hope Alice is okay..’.
There is a tension in the studio that Roger is struggling to dispel. ‘And now with Tom who has all the sport for us today.’
‘It is another hot day here Roger!’