I hate summer. Or rather, I hate this foul, oppressive heat we’ve been having lately. My make-up evaporates in less than an hour, I haven’t worn nice shoes in over a month, and I’m spending most of the nights writhing around torturously in a fruitless bid to fall into a sticky sleep. You can’t even cool down properly, either, because water warms up in a matter of minutes and an ice cube in this weather has as much chance as a toad under a steamroller.
Obviously, the heat wave we’ve been enduring isn’t normal weather for our sad, wet little isle. If this happened every year then the whole country would be kitted out with proper air conditioning (i.e. I wouldn’t have to put my pyjamas in the freezer). British summers tend to be washed-out affairs that are best described as ‘a bit cloudy – best bring a jumper just in case’. While our Mediterranean friends are taking extravagant naps after lunch and whitewashing everything they own, the UK is permanently engaged in low-level battle between the elements and 60 million people genetically disposed to Making the Best of Things. I have memories from being very young and visiting my grandparents in Southampton for a week in the summer holidays. It almost always rained, but we still went to the seaside. My sister and I, too young to feel the cold properly, would run around on the deserted beach and play in the rock pools while my grandparents sat in the car reading The Telegraph, occasionally venturing out – swaddled in two fleeces, a mackintosh, gloves and a hat – to ensure we hadn’t impaled ourselves on a sea urchin or accidentally swallowed one of those mashed-up crabs you always find on English beaches.
Indeed, our quiet defiance in the face of consistently miserable weather is one of the cornerstones of Britishness. All over the country, village newsletters are filled with items about local fêtes and school fairs (or ‘fayres’, if you live somewhere terribly posh and olde worlde), conscientiously written up by earnest, community-minded retirees, probably with that unique kind of one-fingered typing adopted by anyone old enough to remember the Blitz. “The forty-fifth Little Hambleton annual plant fayre was a great success, ” they tap out painstakingly on Microsoft Word 95, “despite the rain, which did not dampen our spirits.”
When we do get the nice weather, though, the whole country goes absolutely fucking mental. Frisbees are dusted off, the nation’s entire fleet of ice cream trucks mysteriously increases tenfold overnight, and hordes of people can be seen sprinting into Boots to buy Soltan by the armload (somewhat optimistically, I always think, as no British person at any time has ever used up an entire bottle of sun cream before it went all yellow and weird smelling). Even reputable broadsheets can’t resist gleefully putting a photo of people sunbathing in Hyde Park on the front page. And almost everyone is in a good mood.
Unfortunately for me, bitching about hot weather in the UK is more or less considered high treason by sun-starved Brits. I usually counter that the heat is bearable if you don’t have to go to work and can just sit in a park somewhere slurping down fizzy wine in a sippy cup (this is actually a lie. On Sunday I stayed indoors all day, sprawled on the living room tiles with all the windows open and a bag of frozen sweetcorn as a pillow.) It blows my mind that people pay good money to go somewhere else to sit on a beach somewhere and cook themselves. Admittedly if I were the type of person who could return from a week in the Costa del Sol with a perfectly even tan I might feel differently, but I’m not. My poor skin, more delicate and ghostly than Robert Pattinson’s inner thighs, burns to buggery as soon as the sun even sticks its fiery bastard head out from behind the clouds for five minutes. When I used to read Enid Blyton raving on about how the Famous Five would return from their jolly school hols ‘as brown as berries’, I used to wonder what the fuck mental berries she was banging on about; the only kind I ever resembled after a megadose of vitamin D was a strawberry. Even if you do tan, though, who actually enjoys the feeling of the sun beating down on them, the feeling of their skin actually roasting? Fucking everyone, apparently. Except me.
Beaches too, are overrated. It has always baffled me how anyone in their right mind would voluntarily get into a gigantic pool of fish and piss. And the sand. The fucking sand! I hate sand as much as any sane person can hate a collection of sedimentary particles ranging in size between 0.0625 and 2mm in diameter. And it gets absolutely fucking everywhere, as attested by my grandmother, who once told me a horrific story of how a romantic tryst on a beach had once resulted in her “getting sand up her chuff”.
Ironically, the last time I went on a beach holiday it was too hot to actually go on the sand. It was 45C, which was hot enough to heat it up to an unbearable temperature . Even in flip flops you had to tread carefully, lest you kicked the sand – as hot and painful as cigarette ash – up on to your feet. Needless to say, I came home looking like a pork scratching. Towards the end of the holiday, I remember waking up every morning to find myself lying in a pile of my own dead, flaked off skin. It was absolutely fucking grim, but not as grim as the German lady I saw oiling herself up on the beach on the last day. She was middle-aged and slender, but her skin was as tough and leathery as the bastard offspring of a human raisin and an elephant’s knee. She was so saggy and wrinkled she could absolutely have gone to a Halloween party two months later as a giant scrotum simply by turning up bollock naked (ha!) She was terrifying, a human figure made of petrified mahogany. The only reason why I didn’t tackle her to the ground and confiscate her tanning oil was because I hadn’t yet learned ‘Good GOD, woman, GET OUT OF THE SUN YOU ARE A TUMOUR ON LEGS’ in GCSE German. Perhaps she is where my morbid heliophobia comes from, but to be honest, anyone who has seen this photograph of me will understand.
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