“Summer’s here, the time is right for dancing in the street,” sang Martha and her Vandellas. I’d imagine summer where she lived was more reliably sunny and warm than it is in the UK. It was certainly not right for dancing in the street last night, not least because of the cars going around the green where we live, but also because there was a distinct nip in the air. In fact, I had to abandon my shorts for the first time since early April and don a pair of joggers, as well as closing the back door. This is hardly an unprecedented state of affairs with the British summer.
I suppose the first time I realised that summer holidays in Britain weren’t as advertised, which is to say not bathed in glorious hot sunshine, was as a child when we went to West Bay in Dorset for our caravan holidays. Obviously, we went in the school holidays and I have just one memory about the weather: it was rubbish. I don’t remember ever going to the beach. Indeed I spent more time with my grandad, wandering down to the end of the harbour of an evening, watching the waves crashing against the sea walls, in a howling game in driving rain. There were days when we didn’t leave the caravan at all, save for visiting the communal toilets (in those days, few caravans had toilets in them).
Years later, our young family would travel to Cornwall in July and August and the same thing happened. We might get the odd decent day, but mostly the wind came in from the west, bringing in rain from the Atlantic ocean. If you were a sun-worshipper and all you wanted to do was lie on a beach all day, you were born in the wrong country.
This could be nonsense, but my experiences in recent years suggest the best weather usually occurs in April, May and sometimes June. For many years, we took a ‘Sun’ holiday during May in all sorts of places in the south west and even Wales and the weather has almost always been excellent. The worst weather we had was in West Bay when it rarely got above around 18c. Luckily, we had bought a nice wind break which when correctly positioned provided the happy illusion it was hot and sunny. If we went to West Bay today, we’d probably use the wind break more as an umbrella.
Like many of you, I do love the sun but I am not that bothered these days when it doesn’t shine very much. That’s partly because we had such a wonderful spring and I don’t feel the need to whinge about the weather now it’s changed and it’s also because what we regard as crap weather is actually essential to retaining our green and pleasant land. I don’t tend to feel the cold so much when it isn’t actually cold in the true sense of the word. I am every bit as happy walking around Bristol’s harbourside when it’s cold and damp as I am when it’s hot and sunny. More than anything, I am well aware of our maritime climate.
As I look out from my Man Cave, the sky is slate grey. The wind blows through the trees and yet another rain shower splatters the windows. And our back garden, which is my partner’s pride and joy and is already exploding into a myriad of spectacular colours, welcomes the damp. So, why shouldn’t I?
The weather is set to improve next week, with daytime temperatures up to around 21c. Not exactly the low thirties of Spain and Greece, but if I want Spanish or Greek temperatures, then I can go to Spain or Greece. With all the hassle or travel abroad at the moment, I’ll happily let others be guinea pigs when flights to the Mediterranean resume before I head to the sun later this year. And if I can’t sit outside on a warm evening, I’ll get on a bus to the Gloucester Road and meet my son for a few pints in one of his many local pubs.
In the summertime, when the weather isn’t always fine, even the cloudy evenings don’t get me down too much because it’s not totally dark until later. In winter, it feels dark all the time and that can get me down. The British summer is what it is. I’ll be miserable enough in September when our six month winter begins.