The Great British Summertime. Strawberries, Wimbledon, Pimms and lemonade, fish and chips on the seafront, and tea and cucumber sandwiches in the shade. It is, of course, lovely and unique, and famously full of all of the above and more. But when it comes to keeping my three wonderful offspring suitably entertained through the weeks after the school year has ended, if only it were so picture-perfectly civilized!
Don’t get me wrong, it is my absolute favorite time of the year, and nothing makes me happier than sunscreen-filled summer exploits with the kids. All with my favorite human beings on the planet. But negotiating six full weeks of school holidays in a climate where the best laid plans can be literally washed out by torrential rain at the blink of an eye, it can be tricky, and it’s always good to have a plan B. And C. And usually D and E as well. It’s amazing how quickly things can go from nets in rock pools, to Netflix on the sofa; unless you simply roll with the punches, take whatever weather the dawn brings with it, and improvise. Yes, we have been that stubborn family seen on many a British beach, building sandcastles in gale-force winds, with overcast skies, and drizzling rain. More than once, I hasten to add. And yes, for the love of this green and pleasant land, while we are on the beach, we WILL have ice cream, dammit, and we will shiver while we eat them for the sheer principle of it all. But the great thing is that at the end of the day, my kids love kicking around in the sand in a waterproof anorak, just as much as they do in their swimsuits (and actually appreciate not having to be slathered head to toe in sunblock!). When all is said and done, experiences like that just make you appreciate the hot, sunny days so much more when they do come.
“Negotiating six full weeks of school holidays in a climate where the best laid plans can be literally washed out by torrential rain at the blink of an eye, it can be tricky, and it’s always good to have a plan B. And C. And usually D and E as well.”
Like a good, close Wimbledon Final, the summer months here in the UK just like to keep us on our toes; we can be blessed with heat waves as easily as gaze out the window at the constant drizzle for weeks on end. But living in Hertfordshire, there are plenty of woods, villages, fields and pretty, well-kept towns to go on exploratory walks, whatever the weather. A simple, healthy, inexpensive pursuit, and above all, one of my troop’s very favorite things to do. At 12, 10 and 6 years old, they are beginning to have very differing ideas of how they want to spend their time! It can often be a challenge in itself just to prize the earphones off my eldest, or the skateboard from under my youngest! But donning wellies for an adventure in the woods is one thing they all agree on. And if our ramblings are not too off the beaten track, if you can throw in the skateboard, a bike or a scooter at the same time, all the better.
So yes, while we Brits might be accustomed to putting up with the 50/50 chance of spending our well-planned fetes, carnivals, weddings and seaside holidays etc. in torrential downpours, when the stars align we do get to enjoy the blazing summer sun too. And boy, is it worshipped! So suffice to say, it never gets boring, and whatever the weather, the summer months always deliver the very best family memories and anecdotes. As an ironic twist, when my husband and I married, we decided to avoid the summertime gamble altogether, planning a cozy, mulled-wine and open-fire filled Wedding in December… something rain simply couldn’t spoil. And lo and behold, we were of course blessed with beautiful sunshine all day. Go figure. We took it as a good omen.
At the end of the day, though the seasons may be frustratingly variable, I wouldn’t want to bring my family up anywhere else in the world. I guess the joys of wearing wellies and sun hats simultaneously means we kind of have it all, including all the beautiful things the sun and the rain bring with them; the gorgeous sights, sounds and smells. If you’ve ever experienced our warm summer rain on freshly cut grass, you’d know exactly why we call it ‘Great’ Britain. It’s almost as enjoyable as strawberries and Pimms during a Centre Court final. Almost.
*wellies/wellington boots – Galoshes/rain boots
*Pimms – A gin-based liquor made in England from dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices and spices – typically mixed with lemonade.