Five Things I’ve Noticed About The Elusive British ‘Summer’
Monday was a much-needed Brit bank (public) holiday. It also felt like the first day of ‘summer’ as I rummaged through my closet for sandals and shorts, and I wondered if I needed to go out and buy sun cream (but still had a bottle from three years ago).
My neon white skin soaked in a little vitamin D, and we busted out the grill for the first barbecue of the season. Tuesday was much the same. Wednesday it was colder, and drizzly. Thursday felt like November. The British summer lasted a total of FOUR days (we had a nice weekend as well) and then it was gone, like a pet cat when a toddler enters the room. Poof.
So since this is my ninth summer here in the UK I thought I would write a few things I’ve noticed (both negative and positive) about the British summer.
1) ‘Summer’ is a relative term as you can have warm and cool weather anytime between March and October. ‘Warm’ actually means an average of 70F/21C and usually lasts a maximum of two weeks at a time. Here in Sheffield we have had the odd 80F+/26C but I think that has happened twice since I have lived here. And it can get down to about 40F/4C quite easily even in August. In Texas (where I moved from), it increases from March up to a scorching 105F/40C and sometimes beyond in June/July/August. That doesn’t happen here.
2) It can be warmer in April than in August though sometimes the best weather is in September or May. Make sense? No?? Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Highly unpredictable weather means you make sure to have the BBC Weather app on your phone, and you look at the forecast hourly for any sign of rain especially if you have outdoor plans that day. BUT the Brits are tough and will go to the beach regardless with their wet suits, anoraks and umbrellas. We gave up the Brit ‘tropical’ beach experience after too many blue-lipped photos of our kids. Now we go to Portugal, Spain or France like the rest of the UK.
3) Before I dive back into the negatives, here is a positive: Brits don’t know about creepy, poisonous bugs except what they read about or see on TV. They don’t have REAL bugs. All year round you can actually romp around in the grass without shoes and have no fear of chiggers (that is an annoying biting bug Brit friends), fire ants, poisonous spiders or snakes, lizards (those are more creepy than dangerous), scorpions, and mosquitos (though in parts of Scotland apparently those exist in some form). Nope – all the Brits have are bees and wasps (both very avoidable), slugs, snails, ladybirds (aka ladybugs) and the meandering ant or two. When we go back to the States for a visit in the summer, my children are horrified to actually HAVE to put on bug spray before they play for even 10 minutes outside.
And just to add on here – the grass stays green all year around and you don’t need sprinklers to keep them that way. So bugless, green cushy grass is a definite plus to me.
4) Here in Britain, when the sun comes out (not necessarily warm temperatures) in the summer months, the crime level also goes up – OK, I mean the summer fashion crime level. This usually happens in two places 1) in the city centre especially in the park areas and 2) outside the local pub. I have a pub that is a 7 minute walk from my house where this crime is rampant.
Let me explain . . . Pasty white beer belly Brits have this urge to go shirtless and wear short shorts. Bleh – lose my lunch. Then by about 6 p.m. the next day, if we have had two full days of sun, those same pasty white people are now a shiny red lobster but still without the shirts and the ‘oh so inappropriate’ short shorts. Then add women who might just wear a bra on the really hot days, or wear tights as trousers or several layers of the orange fake bargain store tan and voilà – summer has started. Nothing against pasty white people, I’m pasty white at the moment, it’s more what you wear (or don’t wear) that makes it a fashion crime.
5) Another positive, which makes me never want to go back to the American way of living, is the paid holidays. From what I have researched, a full-time worker in the UK gets 28 paid holidays (which includes the 8 bank holidays like Christmas day) by law. It’s much more in other parts of Europe, but coming from the US where my first full-time job let me get FIVE paid days off (plus 2 bank holiday equivalents), this is amazing. I had no idea until I moved here that if you go somewhere like Spain, you need at least 10 – 12 working days off to really get a good holiday. Three to five days to unwind, a week or more to REALLY relax and then a few days to gear up for going back.
I need to confess here though, that despite some of the drawbacks, the positives of a cooler British summer outweigh the negatives. A friend of mine laughed at a hashtag on tweet I sent recently that said ‘#luvbritsummer’ – she thought I was being ridiculous but I told her it’s all perspective.
I grew up in scorching hot places, where you live in air-conditioning six months out of the year, spend half an hour getting ready in the morning then have your make-up and hair melt when you walk to your car to go to work, and also find your car is an oven where you can burn body parts when you touch the seat or steering wheel.
I like British summers. No, I love them. We always go somewhere else for about two weeks to get consistent sun and heat which makes up for the drizzle and cold. Two weeks of real heat is just fine with me even if I am wearing the same shorts from eight years ago – ’cause who needs to buy new shorts when you hardly ever wear them?
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