A realist’s summer favourites

Summer is upon us, technically. Don’t worry if you hadn’t noticed. Despite the worrying pandemic situation, we must persist more than ever in the annual tradition of dusting off the BBQ, getting the creaky garden chairs out of the garage and vowing to get the AC in the car fixed this year, even if the weather isn’t all that spectacular. Even in unprecedented times, the British summer is a staple of unwavering stability. Here are some perennial favourites to cling to this season.

1. Social media

If you don’t Instagram it, did you really go on holiday? Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean so if not for a milieu of tourists to show off their originality in posing? Why is the Eiffel Tower so tall if not for good phone service? Why did the Romans build such a large colosseum if not to accommodate thousands of Russel Crowe impersonators misquoting “This is Sparta!” in their caption? Even if you must swap The Great Wall for Cornwall this year, or if Peterborough is as close as you can get to St. Petersburg, or if your trip to Iceland is just to get a frozen pizza, social media can make it look exciting and, therefore, #worthit. Some say inciting jealousy on social media is the very reason summer exists and it cannot be escaped.

2. Bug spray

This favourite may evoke some nostalgia (or perhaps trauma) for the Scout and Guide camp veterans, or those forced into camping trips by keener family members. Bug-spray is, for these people, an old friend – the (anti)Buzz to their Woody, if you will (sponsor me, Pixar). The Bubble was reunited with the modern marvel in Scotland when a plague of biting bugs descended upon our apartment, our dinner and our poor, poor toes. Yes, toes – dads may have it right with the protective socks and sandals combo. Bugs suck.

3. People who don’t use bug spray

The only thing more effective at repelling bugs than specifically designed bug spray? People who don’t use bug spray. The true heroes of our generation, these self-sacrificing saints are magnets to hungry bugs while the rest of us sit back in buzz-free peace. Such people can be found in any tourist hub and can be easily maintained by ego-boosting phrases such as “Bug spray is for wusses” and “Bugs should fear you”.

4. Hats

Hats may be more commonly associated with the cold winter months, but everyone knows that summer is when the top hats come out (not literally, thankfully). The fight for the floppiest of floppy hats begins, the prizes given to those whose faces are almost entirely obscured, while the baseball cap and the Panama hat battle it out for prime spot on the sunburnt heads of middle-aged men. For the born adventurers, the cowboy hat and the cork hat (only complete with the word “Australia” branded at the front so that people know you’ve actually been there) are must-haves. The bucket hat appears to cap the broadest age range, but the Trilby takes the crown for trendiest tourist headgear. Sunglasses must also get a notable mention for their superb contribution to style in the chest pocket of every self-respecting tourist.

5. Relentless optimism

*The Beatles’ 1969 track Here Comes the Sun plays increasingly aggressively* Summer is synonymous with BBQs, beach trips and dusting off the sunglasses. Summer, in the UK, is not necessarily synonymous with the mysterious natural phenomenon commonly referred to as “sunshine”. Nonetheless, grey skies are no match for the British public and if there is one thing that can unite us in these divided times it is perennial complaining about the current weather while simultaneously considering a BBQ this evening “while the rain holds off”. Sunshine is sweet, but stoically consuming a slightly soggy sausage while your hair is blown into your mouth is sweeter.

A NOTABLE MENTION TO THE SUMMER HEROES WHO NARROWLY MISSED THE LIST:

– beach chairs housing decades’ worth of sand (we admire your perseverance);

– the blessing of deodorant;

– books just interesting enough to satisfy poolside reading but disposable enough to be left behind for the next patron and thus make room in the suitcase for other useless clutter;

– back-to-school sales (who doesn’t love cheap stationery?);

– and Christmas – you may not be very summery, but you give us hope for when summer ends. What is life except awaiting the next seasonal festivity?

All images created by author, Emma McElderry.

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