The Bluebell Abbey Guide to Being British: Summer
Posted on June 08 2018
Summer in Britain is an unpredictable affair - it arrives when it wants to, vanishes at a moments notice and constantly taunts the populace with sudden bouts of rain, to which Britons simply nod knowingly and with great satisfaction say, “Well, I guess that’s summer over then.”
With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising then that the British have a complicated relationship with the arrival of hot weather - part surprise, part confusion, part romantic longing for when it will get cool again - a process that is repeated exactly in reverse at the end of British summertime.
Just like the earth exists in a temperate band around the sun - not too hot and not too cold for life - so too do the British have a zone within which they feel comfortable – approximately between nineteen and twenty degrees. Below and the urge to stray no further than ten feet from a radiator is undeniable. Above and they face an almost uncontrollable desire to state the obvious, randomly announcing, “it’s hot’’ as if no one else has noticed.
Nothing, however, brings the British more joy than a pleasant summer day, except perhaps a pleasant summer’s bank holiday - something that is particularly evident in the nations literary tradition. Get a British writer started on summer and they will inevitably find it hard to stop. Take the bard himself, William Shakespeare;
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows. Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.”
“Gimmerton chapel bells were still ringing and the full, mellow flow of the beck in the valley came soothingly on the ear.”
Perhaps the biggest culprit, however, was the great Charles Dickens, whose neo-orgasmic preoccupation with not being cold for a change possibly explains why he died in June just as the country was warming up.
“The river glistened like a path of diamonds in the sun; the birds poured forth their songs from the shady trees.” Nicholas Nickleby;
And again in Great Expectations…
“When the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
And he wasn’t finished there…
“The deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air.” The Pickwick Papers,
Fickle and unreliable though it may be, British summer comes with certain guarantees; British men will carry out seemingly ordinary tasks without their shirt on, whether society at large wants them too or not, the desire to cook dinner on a disposable barbecue bought from a petrol station will become overwhelming, and a fiery portal will open beneath London, transforming the Central Line into the seventh circle of hell. But when the sun is out and the grass is green and the land becomes coated with a sweet dusting of wildflowers, there really is nowhere quite as lovely as Britain.
Just remember to bring an umbrella.