London’s skyline has a new addition this week: the Walkie Scorchie. Joining the crowded group of glass protrusions, such as the Shard, the Gherkin, and the Cheesegrater, is 20 Fenchurch Street, which had previously been known as the Walkie Talkie, on account of it looking vaguely like a gigantic two-way radio.
But the 37-storey office block, due to be completed next year, has gained a new sinister reputation: the death ray, the fryscraper, the Walkie Scorchie.
Its south-facing concave facade conspires to concentrate and reflect the sun’s rays into an intense beam of shimmery light, hitting the buildings on the opposite side of the road. Along a 30-yard stretch of pavement at Eastcheap – just a Molotov cocktail’s throw from where the Great Fire of 1666 started -London’s burning.
Yesterday afternoon, I was sent out to see if I could fry an egg in the heat, a task that I presumed was impossible on an overcast September day. But, not only was it possible, I had to run out of the death ray that was slowly cooking my egg, because the thinning hairs on my head started to catch fire. The distinctive smell of burning follicles, combined with the sensation of a magnifying glass being shone on my pate, forced me to take cover along the road.
As a result, my finished dish was possibly a little baveuse, as they say in France. A braver soul than me (with thicker hair, I noted jealously) stayed the course and boasted how his egg sandwich was “a little too done for my liking.”
This was accomplished with just intermittent sunshine. Today, due to be a glorious late summer day, could see a brigade of chefs flipping burgers, griddling aubergines and roasting hogs in the astonishing solar flares bouncing off Taser Towers.
On Monday, the air temperature in the concentrated beam, reached 69.8C, which in old money is 158F. To put that in context, the world’s hottest temperature was recorded in Death Valley at 56.7C (134F) over a century ago.