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Sunday, 7 July 2013

In the (British) Summertime

The beer garden. The sun is out and the British are drinking.

British summertime. Generally speaking, this is an oxymoron. Still, for a few choice days in the summer the lucky, lucky few who haven't fled in desperation to the south of France, the coastal tourist towns of the Greece and Turkey or Ibiza (why, I have no idea) there might be the odd day where the grateful, sun starved Brits can be heard wandering around exclaiming: "It's too hot." "I don't like this heat." "I need to sit down in the shade, I'm too warm, me."

Anyone for tennis? You can't escape it!

Much like the rest of British culture, summertime has grown into its traditions. For the classic British experience, consider heading to south west London for a spot of tennis. That is, if you can get a ticket. For those flash with cash, purchase a ticket or two before the day itself and rest assured that you'll only have to rub shoulders (literally) with the masses while you grope your way out of Wimbledon station with a billion other hopefuls.

Option two. You can't really see the eccentricity in action here, but believe me, it's happening. 

No ticket? No problem. You now have a couple of different choices. Option one: join another great British tradition: the queue. Yes, you lucky daytrippers, not only are you in with a small chance of seeing a great British tennis legend lose in the semi- or final against an eastern European stud; you can also experience the joyful agony of standing in line endlessly with scarce a hope of a ticket behind a six foot 20 stoner from the home counties. Or perhaps you'd prefer option two: Again, you might need to queue. Well, we don't like to disappoint our visitors. If the tennis gods are in your favour, you can then join a menagerie of pale, British eccentrics to sit 50 feet from the actual action and watch the entire thing on a big TV. Woe betide you leave your spot to find the loo. This is every man for himself, and you won't find that seat when you come back.

At least stock up on some or all of these while you stand in your queue of choice.

(Let's not forget to mention that whichever of the two delectable choices you decide upon, you'll also need to be in line around 4am, drenched in sunscreen, balancing your need to quench your dehydrated self against the increasing desperation to find the nearest loo.)

Unappealing ways to spend your British summer #44

Of course, over the past couple of decades other grass-based summer activities have found their niche in the hearts of the British. Forty years ago, a dairy farmer with a taste for the blues decided to host a free music festival on his land. And forty years later, you can pay the price of a small Tuscan villa for a ticket and enjoy all the delights of trudging through mud with your loo roll in hand to queue (yes, we don't like to leave anyone out) with thirty thousand others for the one working portaloo on the site. And showers, well, they're for wimps. Whack on your wellies and get sloshed whilst sliding around a field in your most stylish "I may work in Canary Wharf but I'm a hippy at heart" three thousand quid distressed t-shirt and shorts.
And remember that you have to get there first. Along the never-intended-for-heavy-traffic single file A roads. Good luck to you all.

Too hot? Fear not. We're just days away from this.

If neither of these incredibly expensive forms of self torture float your proverbial boat, perhaps it would be best to spend those precious seconds of British summer closer to home. No, I'm not talking about caravans or camping. A whole other long blog post waxing lyrical on Kenneth Williams and Babs Windsor. I'm talking about those other great British staycation essentials. Marks and Spencer's. And the pub. Or one of them. On  a beautiful sunny day there's really nothing that quite beats a picnic-style banquet of little sandwiches, mini (Scotch) eggs and sausage rolls, washed down with delicious cloudy lemonade and ginger beer. (You'll definitely still need the sunscreen. But lie ins are a possibility, and if you choose somewhere with a toilet nearby, well, what more could you wish for?) And it'll be raining and cold in a couple of days. Now then, time to put the fan on and close the curtains. It really is too hot.