British Sum…meh

It’s common knowledge that when referring to summer in the UK, one should always use air quotes. ‘Summer’ in the UK is ordinary at best, so for the few days the mercury dares to venture above 25 degrees, it’s taken pretty seriously by all. The country awakens from its slumber and residents go above and beyond to savour their brief British sum…meh.

Growing up in Australia, a county known for its sunshine and outdoor lifestyle, I was instilled with a healthy respect for the great ball of fire in the sky. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap‘ was the mantra of my childhood and later on avoided the sun like an ex you spot standing across the room at a friend’s party.

Apparently people in the UK were not given these same sun sense lectures throughout their formative years. Every time temperatures rise, the locals shed their clothes (taps aff!) and every spare inch of sunlight is occupied by a lily-white Brit…sans sunscreen. You can always tell if there’s been a summer’s day in the UK by the myriad of sunburnt flesh patterns seen in the office the following day.

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For the remaining 360 days of the year when the sun doesn’t shine, the UK population appears to keep fake tanning companies in business with their desire to look sun kissed. Not a day goes by when I don’t see the tell tale signs of a botched fake tan job…an orange face here…brown elbows there…hands looking like they’ve been dipped in wood stain…everywhere. Some Brits would literally rather look like an Oompa Loompa than bear any resemblance to someone from the cast of Interview With a Vampire

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When I think about a quintessentially British summer, images of beer gardens and pints of cider on the footpath spring to mind. For most of the year, drinking is an indoor sport for those living in the UK, but when the sun is out, so is this beloved British pastime. With the daylight hours extending to 9 or 10pm during the ‘summer’ months, a walk past any pub in the evening might have you thinking there’s been a fire evacuation…

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For the upper echelons of society (or those willing to camp in a field overnight), summer in the UK is all about Wimbledon. Regardless of whether you are a tennis fan (Roger who?), the grand slam as a great opportunity to combine all of Britain’s favourite summer hobbies in one fell swoop…drinking, skiving off work and catching a ‘suntan’. With a Pimm’s in one hand and strawberries in the other, British summer doesn’t get much better.

On the rare occasion when temperatures spike above 30 degrees, the UK literally bakes. The London Underground becomes an oven of unbearable magnitude, buildings melt cars, store freezers look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie and people actually need medical attention…

The number one question I get asked here is ‘Why on earth did you leave the sunshine in Australia to come to rainy old Blighty?!’ Err, well…predominantly because my husband lives here and I like to be near him? But aside from that, and on a purely weather related note, because I hate the heat and I’m a miserable cow for a large portion of the year in Australia. Whereas in the UK, it’s socially acceptable to moan about the heat as soon as it hits 23 degrees. And there’s snow sometimes.

In this country, I don’t have to suffer summer all year round…the season politely shares the calendar with the other three seasons, just as it should. As a resident in England, I can safely step outside the front door 97% of the time without feeling like I might self combust. But most importantly, because a summer’s day is so rare here, that when it does come about, the country comes to life…and people actually smile. To quote Lilly Allen’s thoughts on London in summer, ‘Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why, would I want to be anywhere else?’

 

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