Bill Jamieson: UK Government stating the obvious

Hat, sunglasses, sun cream ' the checklist for summer is endless. Picture: John Devlin

Hat, sunglasses, sun cream ' the checklist for summer is endless. Picture: John Devlin

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THE government has plenty of advice on the heat, on Greece and on terrorism – but little of it is useful, says Bill Jamieson.

These are dangerous times we live in. Hot weather, cold weather, Greek bank shutdowns, Muslim terrorists, coups and riots – but above all ,the weather.

Blindingly obvious advice pours forth on holiday destinations after the Tunisia massacre

It’s the gravest threat to life and limb. It’s a killer.

With the soaring temperatures in many – but not all – parts of the country this week (I write from the northern Trossachs), I hope you have been paying close attention to government advice. After the constant BBC warm-up bombardment a week beforehand of a scorching heatwave on the way, the heavens have duly opened with a deluge of government advice on how to cope. Barely have we had time to digest this than warnings are building of thunderstorms and flash floods.

It’s always a good idea to read carefully what the government has to say. But once you have read it, you can be forgiven for feeling hotter than ever.

For here is advice of such stunning obviousness as to invite ridicule. Warm weather? Wear a sun hat. Put on protective sun creams. Wear light clothing.

Is this a cruel parody of official advice bearing the imprimatur of HM Government?

This is what has been appearing on government websites this week (I quote verbatim):

“Hot weather can cause heat exhaustion in people and animals.”

“Be prepared for hot weather. It is important to make sure you and those you care for are suitably hydrated. Dehydration can cause significant health problems and lead to death in extreme cases.”

This is followed by a list of admonitions to which careful attention should be paid. Clearly many of these may simply have never occurred to people. The list includes:

“Try to stay out of the sun, particularly when it is at its highest between 11am and 3pm.”

“Stock up on supplies like medicines, food and non-alcoholic drinks, so you won’t have to go out in the heat.”

“Keep your home cool – shutting windows when it’s hotter outside than in may help.”

“Open your windows at night – when it’s cooler.”

“Keep drinking fluids.”

“Do strenuous outdoor activities, like DIY or gardening, during cooler parts of the day, like early morning.”

“Avoid heavy and hot food.”

“Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, such as cotton, so sweat can evaporate.”

Clearly the government feels that these suggestions might never otherwise have occurred to people. Opening windows at night? Who but a Whitehall civil servant could have come up with such a fresh and innovative suggestion for a warm evening?

On keeping your house cool, the government has this advice: “Close pale-coloured curtains – closing dark curtains and metal blinds can make rooms hotter.”

And this gem, which makes the bleeding obvious seem revelatory by comparison: “Keep windows closed when it’s hotter outside than inside, but open them if the room gets too hot. Open windows at night when the air is cooler, but close ground floor windows when you leave the house or go to bed.”

Have not our lives been transformed by such advice? Will we not all sleep better in our beds by such insightful admonition – when warm, open the windows?

Oh, and here’s something else we may have forgotten: “During hot and dry weather, avoid bonfires and be extra careful with barbecues. Dry ground in the summer increases the risk of fire.”

Either the government considers we are all morons or it feels compelled to be seen to be saying or doing something for fear of being thought asleep at the wheel or shockingly inattentive.

Similar blindingly obvious advice now pours forth on holiday destinations after the Tunisia massacre and the Greek banking shut-down. You can always rely on the government to come out with the stunningly obvious.

On Greece, the official government advice website opens promisingly thus: “The currency of Greece is the euro” – a reassuring statement of fact, but no qualification admitted that this fact could become quickly out of date.

“When travelling outside of the UK, you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card).

“Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services – including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice.” You don’t say?

You would need to have been living in a cave or on Planet Zog not to be aware of the Greek crisis – one that has featured in news broadcasts around the world for six long years.

Nevertheless, the advice continues: “While banks are closed in Greece and some withdrawals are limited, make sure you take sufficient euros in cash to cover the duration of your stay, emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays.” Shouldn’t we always?

“You should take appropriate security precautions against theft.” Ditto.

Then follows a lengthy list of current hazards, as if you had never heard of the word “Greece” – strikes, disruption to public transport, demonstrations in central Athens (to be avoided), and a general threat from terrorism and acts of political violence. A 999 call from a UK mobile in Greece “will automatically transfer you to the Greek emergency services” – an observation that skirts the fact Greece has been run on emergency services since 2009.

“Most visits are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings (See Crime). Carry a copy of your passport or other photographic ID which confirms British nationality at all times.

“The Greek police won’t accept rowdy or indecent behaviour, especially where excessive drinking is involved … Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.” Well, whoever would have thought?

As for holiday travel, there are now blanket warnings on how the Middle East has become much more of a dangerous place after a succession of terrorist outrages, the latest of which in Tunisia which has shocked the country. Holiday destinations across the region are now covered with colour-coded risk assessments. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s post-massacre rhetoric booms on: we must continue to defend “our British values and culture” and “the British way of life”.

Ten years after Tony Blair made similar sententious remarks in the wake of the 2005 terrorist rampage in central London, they are still being regurgitated after every calamity. Like those admonitions about the weather and the blindingly obvious advice on Greece, the government can say little – other than to tell us what we already well know.

Feeling uncomfortable? Anxious about terrorism? Running out of money in Athens? Draw the curtains, take precautions – and hey, open the window if feeling warm.

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