Saturday, 27 June 2009

Celebrating the arrival of the English summer

Last Sunday saw the official start of summer. We found a completely appropriate way to celebrate the season’s arrival in England.

Our neighbours Melanie, Darren, George and Jenny invited us to join them in the village of Salt at the Holly Bush pub, famed for its good food and its large garden. Well, when I say ‘invited’ I’m overstating a little: we actually invited ourselves. ‘OK if we come along?’ we asked, always a difficult question to which to answer ‘No’. We even dragged along our friend Anne Nober, from Strasbourg but currently a student at Leicester and with us over the weekend before heading home for the summer break.

Darren’s family were going there to mark Father’s Day, which is celebrated around this time in England. Of course, I wasn’t celebrating Father’s Day. My kids have always had trouble even remembering my birthday. This always amazes me slightly since one of them has his own just three days after mine. Perhaps I should have arranged to have a birthday on the day after his – then his celebrations might have acted as a reminder. As for Father’s Day – well, that’s a complete non-starter.

So we were just freeloading on Darren’s celebration. Our pretext, if we needed one, was to mark the 21st of June, the solstice, the longest day.

And, as I say, it was exactly appropriate, fulfilling all anyone could expect of the beginning of summer in England. The day started grey. The temperature gradually dropped. By midday, the appointed time to head for the pub, the rain was pouring down.

We were there by about 12:15 but sitting in the garden wasn’t really on, so we went inside looking for a table. Sadly, most of the population of Salt seemed to have turned up slightly before us, and having reached the same conclusion about eating indoors, had taken every available space. They were all ordering their lunches and giving every sign of enjoying their tables for at least the next hour and a half.

We waited around for thirty minutes or so, by which time it had at least stopped raining. It was still cold, grey and miserable, with every sign that the rain would be back. But even so, the wet benches around the garden tables offered a somehow more attractive prospect than standing around for another hour or more watching other people eating. We headed outside.

The tables are all equipped with large, undoubtedly effective but slightly optimistic sun umbrellas. Ours proved invaluable to us: though the downpour had ended, there were several more showers during our lunch, and the umbrella proved essential protection.

Celebrating the solstice: how England welcomes the arrival of summer. An umbrella designed to protect against the sun proves invaluable against the rain. Anne, from France, looks despairingly towards heaven for relief, George in his blanket recreates a scene from Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, and is his father Darren resorting to the power of prayer?

Still, however cold and wet it may have been, the food was good, the company even better. And there was something quintessentially English about welcoming the summer this way.

Who could possibly complain?

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

Sorry! Next year I'll get it right.