The Great English Pastime

St. James Park London

St. James Park London

Great. Just when I think I’ve got English weather all figured out, there it goes making me look stupid. Again.

Moaning about the weather over here is the national pastime. No, not A national pastime – Football (what you might call “soc-cer”) is a national pastime. Rugby, Cricket, Tiddlywinks – each is an example of A national pastime.

Complaining about the weather in England is THE national pastime.

photo courtesy of

Thank you for bailing on us again, sunshine…but at least I have something to talk about when I get home.

When it rains, it is too wet. It is “too wet” 80% of the time. The remaining 20% of the time is divided between the following complaints:

  • Bitterly cold.
  • Africa hot.
  • Too cloudy.
  • Not cloudy enough.
  • Unbearably damp.
  • Dry as the dustbowl.
  • Too windy.
  • Where on earth is the wind? It’s so still – I can’t breathe!
  • THE HUMIDITY IS KILLING ME… Note: I lived for years in Houston. English humidity has NOTHING on that, but try convincing the Brits. I consider this to be the waste of a perfectly good complaint.

Now, if we’re honest, I think most of us would agree that talking about the weather is our national pastime for the sole reason it is the one thing we all have in common and that we can all agree on. This island is a surprisingly diverse mix of ethnicities, cultures and creeds. I suppose it is something about having once ruled two-thirds of the world. They thought they were exporting Britain, when, in fact, they were importing the world. It’s not a problem, really. It is just how it is.

As such, nobody here breezes into their local Post Office and says out loud to a queue of perfect strangers, “Those (insert nationality here) are taking all our jobs and I want them all deported!” Or, “What’s up with those (insert religious denomination here)? They’re all a bunch of (insert something wildly inappropriate, inflammatory and unprintable here)!” One might think it, perhaps, but one would never say it out loud, any more than one would suddenly blurt out, “Man, my haemorrhoids are BURNING UP!” or “My husband just emptied my bank account and ran off with the au pair…” No. No matter what country we reside in, gross overshares and statements that can get us thrown into jail are never a good place to start any conversation.

I have absolutely NOTHING to complain about. Except maybe this dodgy tie. And the plight of the English Red Squirrel.

I have absolutely NOTHING to complain about. Except maybe this dodgy tie. And the plight of the English Red Squirrel.

But the weather! Now, that IS something we can discuss without really giving away anything of ourselves or our bigotries, our embarrassing physical complaints or our emotional frailties. We are all victims of the weather, which puts us forever on the same team. (Go team!) The weather, being considered a safe subject, therefore dominates 95% of all conversation in Britain. The remaining 5% of conversation is generally split between the demise of the English Red Squirrel (Curse those Americans for importing their evil – yet admittedly hardy – grey squirrels and threatening the habitat of our tufty eared friends!) and the proper pronunciation of AL-U-MIN-I-U-M. (That’s “al-yoo-min-ee-um”, my American friends. Don’t forget it!)

And so, today, 21 June 2014, the entire haemorrhoid-free portion of the population is left with absolutely nothing to complain about, and therefore nothing to discuss. Nothing. You should see them in the grocery queues and sitting at stoplights. Nary a word is being spoken. It’s quite strange, actually. It is as if the entire nation has been brain snatched.

I have never heard Britain so quiet.

Today, it is a sunny 24 C (75 F). There is a very gentle breeze, the birds are singing and life is good. The sky is dotted with very occasional, wispy clouds that don’t look likely to produce anything at all worth complaining about. Add to all of this the fact that it is a Saturday and most of us are not working. I know, right? This is a truly miraculous day.

My husband has been saying for years that sunny warm days only ever occur when he is chained to his desk in London. He claims they are produced simply to torture them down in the salt mines. He and his pale, mole-like coworkers squint longingly at the shafts of sunshine creeping under the door, teasing them with the promise of freedom and a sunny beer garden.

Once the minions emerge from work, however, the heavens open up and the rain starts at precisely the moment that the sun, sitting high in the sky 5 minutes ago, makes its rapid dash behind the horizon, plunging the entire working nation into wet, abject darkness once again. They huddle beneath an ocean of black umbrellas and make their way home through the grey, watery streets. If it is a Friday, the sun will not reappear until Monday around noon. Unless it is a 3-day weekend, in which case the sun will delay its reappearance until Tuesday.

deck chairs

Here are our deckchairs in the front garden. We would be sitting here, but now there is absolutely nothing to talk about. *sigh*

But not so this weekend! No, my friends, this is a beautiful, absolutely perfect summer’s Saturday. It is one for the record books! And, being the longest day of the year, we can expect the sun to be up until nearly 9:30. It will be light until well after 10.

Great. NOW what are we supposed to talk about?

Mother Hen

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