There is nothing comparable to the “great British summer”. Think about this: The sun splits the curtains on a Sunday morning when you are lucky enough not to be hungover. You float out of bed, the world beneath your feet and a glance out of the window fills you with joy as there isn’t a cloud in the sky. You send messages in the group chat and rally the troops. A quick 30 minute shower with Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae on loop and you are ready to go.
Brisk walk to Tesco. Beers. Ham. Cheese. Bread. Pack it in a bag with the blankets and rendezvous at the end of Market Street for a jaunt to East Sands. The wind is a bit chilly, but spirits are as high as the wind and you are giving it a run for its money. You are ready for what is definitely set to be an amazing day. You reach the pier and the North Sea is sparkling, the sun is shining and the world, for five minutes, is a beautiful place where nothing bad has or ever will happen.
The problems start when the blanket rolls out. Everyone has to sit on one corner each as the wind picks up. Someone is sick in their mouth as a kind elderly gentleman saunters by with his “tap ‘aff”, his massive breasts swaying in the gusts of North Sea air. A jar of olives rolls down the sand scattering into your already watering eyes and the executive decision was made to take shelter behind a hill because your group of international friends have never had the need to buy a windbreaker.
Optimism overcomes you when you find adequate cover, and that is when the clouds roll in. It is getting colder, but it has been decided that the picnic is happening, so it is happening. Come hell or high water. It is happening. The drizzle begins and someone sighs. Tensions rise as everyone starts to passive aggressively tweet about how your idea for a picnic on the beach was dumb and that a three day overdue deadline would have been much more preferable to a mediocre spell of sunshine. Oh, and there’s sand in the sandwiches.
The cracks are beginning to show and it goes volcanic as God Himself decides to flush the toilet on the whole sordid occasion. Rain batters off the bread, now more of an impromptu lumpy gravy slowly dissolving into the tartan blanket. Tesco bags are emptied and held for cover as everyone shouts and swears at you for completely ruining the weekend. Market St is ablaze with fires and riots as the rest of the British public panic to buy umbrellas and run for cover because despite knowing the pattern of arbitrary island weather we all had the same dumb idea.
Your breaths are ragged and erratic as you finally stumble into halls, hair plastered to your face and everyone smugly reminding you that you left the beers on the beach. Into the fray again you run back as fast as you can, sobbing down the phone to Williamsons to have a taxi waiting for you. You commandeer the beers. You cry softly into them in the taxi back as you finally break. You are done.
Once back in the hall, all hope seems lost. Everyone is soaked to the bone and raging because the day is tarnished. But then someone laughs. And then another. And another. Everyone laughs at the pathetic futility that is the “great British summer”. Someone puts on A Place in the Sun on BBC 2 and cracks open a beer. Five hours later you are all stumbling about the common room dancing to Beyoncé.
Then you have the ‘eureka’ moment. The rain has been off for three hours, the ground is dry and it may not be Tenerife but it’s still kind of warm. Kind of. Back to Tesco. More beer. Wood. Disposable barbecue. Steak and marshmallows. Texts are sent again and the troops rally beneath you once more. A drunken stumble to East Sands and everyone else in St Andrews seems to have had the same brilliantly simple idea to salvage the day. The bonfire is built. Someone brought a speaker, another a guitar. You dance the night away with your friends and talk about the world. The sky is clear, the stars are out and you all lay by the bonfire as you finally become at peace with the day. Through failure, friendship and frantic weather it has been accomplished. Memories made, photos taken. Everyone laughs about the hilarity of how pathetic the daytime picnic attempt was and everyone smiles. That, my readers, is the whole meaning behind the great British summer.