Barely into June and the forgotten dos and don’ts of summer that had faded into a distant memory during the (very) long dark months of winter are now coming to the fore. Here is what we know or have quickly learned, with sometimes painful consequence, about the British summer and some tips on how to survive it:
White lines: The initial sunburn suffered as your pale skin is met by the unfamiliar rays of the sun will dictate your tan for the rest of the summer. Should you happen to be wearing, therefore, cap sleeves, a halterneck or – heaven forbid – a crossover top then these will be the white lines you will have to bear for the entire summer season. No further sunbathing or even fake tan will hide those initial lines. TIP: Plan your wardrobe for the first excursion out in the sunshine VERY carefully.
Heat is on: For every short spell of sunshine there will be consequences. Britain does not cope well with heat. A few days under the burning ball in the sky will result in terrifying thunder and lightning storms possibly accompanied by torrential rain. This rain, however, will not prevent the predictable threat of hosepipe bans.
Long and shorts of it: Temperature gauges do not need to rise significantly for us Brits to start peeling away the layers. Most of us have substantially more summer clothes than we will ever be able to wear in the tiny window that is the British summertime (bikinis for almost every day of a holiday?) So when those clouds start to lift the shorts, vest tops and flip flops are coming out!
4 Staying power: And they will stay out – certainly when we are on our annual vacation regardless of the weather. If you see a family sheltering from the elements in shorts, sandals and a Kagoul at some rain-drenched attraction they will be Brits on holiday!
5 Raining on our parade: The sun may shine on the righteous but it rarely blesses key events such as Wimbledon, music festivals or school sports days. It can be gorgeous all week but our humorous maker will turn on the sprinklers shortly before the gates open for school sports days – which will then be cancelled on health and safety grounds. Also synonymous with rain clouds are pre-planned barbecues. TIP: Stock up the freezer and go with the flow, when the sun comes out fire up the barbecue.
Out and about: For the average Brit a sunny weekend signals an outing to one of three popular attractions – the tip, a car boot sale and Ikea! If you thought the queue for meatballs at the flatpack superstore was bad you should see the line for the ice cream machine on a summer’s day. TIP: If planning a car journey on a sunny afternoon plot the route carefully to avoid all of the three aforementioned sites.
Mow bother: Despite your best efforts to ‘get into the garden’ your lawn and borders will be a state. Blessed with sunshine and the inevitable accompanying showers, our gardens grow quicker than an anti-Trump petition. Weeds rapidly overtake any bedding plants and occupy any nook and cranny. TIP: Accept that, like painting the Forth bridge, your work there is never done and the retired neighbour we all have living nearby will be tending a veritable Garden of Eden.
Painful truth: It does not have to be sunny to cause sunburn. That light breeze that makes it so easy to sit out and relax (possibly in a beer garden) is actually masking the powerful rays that are secretly turning your skin a painful shade of pink/red/scarlet. TIP: If in doubt, get the sun cream out.
Naked truth: As the sun comes out, so does the flesh. White flesh, hairy flesh, barely-covering the bones flesh, wrinkly and saggy flesh. People of every shape, size and age reach for their under-utilised summer wardrobe and strive to avoid getting tan lines. And why not? You may notice every bump and lump as you scrutinise your outfit in the bedroom mirror but no-one else will. We are all unleashing our true form from beneath the winter woollies and making the most of the long-awaited warm weather.
Points of view: We Brits do love to complain. So there will be gripes about hot summer nights and muggy days, wasps and ants, prickly heat, humidity, lethargy, hay fever and thirsty gardens. But remember it was only three months ago, in March, that it was snowing! Enjoy the British summertime while you can.