Sunshine and warmth has absolutely nothing to do with what makes Britain great so give it the cold shoulder today.
It’s late September and I’m typing this with all the doors and windows open. A warm sweet smelling breeze lolls into the room. My plants, which looked in their last throws just last week, are flowering gloriously again. The sky’s a solid blue normally only seen in a child’s painting, and the horizon is a lush green where the woods and moors curve up to meet it. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? No. Not really.
The sun is no friend of the British. Our culture was born from drizzle, grey skies and all that is inclement.
Would the industrial revolution have taken place in a sunbaked Britain? The cloying claustrophobic heat of the steam engine, the rampant extraction of coal from deep in the earth. Neither of these would have been possible in a Southern European climate where José is more inclined to have a siesta and a two hour lunch break than invent a Spinning Jenny. The wool industry, the major driver behind the industrial revolution and our subsequent wealth and empire, relied on the rain to feed the lush grass on our rolling hills on which the sheep feed, and which filtered down to give us the glorious soft water which drove the mills. A quick check on the sunniest countries in the world shows the majority are amongst those with the lowest GDP and the most poverty. Sunshine is no friend of theirs. Tap room logic maybe, but a coincidence? Surely not.
Our musical heritage has a less than sunny disposition about it too. The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, one of the greatest albums of all time, soaked in West Coast sunshine harmonies, beaten to number on in the NME ‘Greatest Albums of all Time’ by The Stone Roses‘ debut. Us Brits prefer the sound that could have only come from a pissing down grey cobbled streets of Manchester in the 80s. Before the gentrification. The Beach Boys sang about surfing, chicks and cars, the Beatles sang about vicars darning socks and holes in Lancashire. The latter the dark song on an album that would tip Brian Wilson over the edge in his search for musical perfection. The beach and the sun wasn’t enough for him. Rain 1 Sun 0. New Order, Radiohead, sodding Coldplay, none of them shout out sunshine and hail from distinctly drab places and took on the world.
Then there’s heavy metal. The UK’s musical gift to the world. Born in industrial Birmingham. The black country. It may have more canals than Venice, but had it the same weather, would Ozzy, Geezer, Tony and Bill have created the dark thunderous riffs that changed the world and spawned a million backpatched demins?
Where would our comedy be if it weren’t for the bleak weather. Open All Hours, Porridge, Dad’s Army, Blackadder. From the mundane grim up north, to the sarcasm and dark cloud tinged humour. It fits with the climate we live in. Porridge set in a Cool Hand Luke US style prison? Faulty Towers. Imagine how that would have turned out if the English Riviera actually lived up to its name and the guests spent all their time outside and not antagonising Basil. Even the name Rising Damp. You just couldn’t make that anywhere else other than Yorkshire. In the 70s. We don’t do glam. It won’t work. It’s just not, well, funny.
So why should we be thankful for the current heatwave the news keeps telling us about, with a backdrop of reporters on beaches, tabloids showing dollybirds in bikinis on their lunch break and cheery weather presenters expecting us to be absolutely fucking delighted that it’s a bit sunny?
The nanny state certainly shares my view. A quick check on the Bradford NHS site reveals the sun lauded by the media is a giant orange death ball. Leave your house at your peril, hide your kids, hide your wife, it’s frying everyone out there. It’s a miracle the human race has survived for so many hundreds of thousand of years without the ability to leave the house between 11am and 3pm for large parts of the year.
The current heatwave also brings its fair share of practical annoyances. Young lads strutting the streets with their tops off. Usually the same pasty colour and physique of someone who’s just been rescued from Belsen. The tensed roided up lot are just as bad. Put it away. You just look a twat regardless of how many identikit tribal tattoos you’ve got. They’ve obviously not read the Bradford NHS website and are completely unaware that they’re about to burst into flames like a vampire in Buffy. Which is some conciliation.
The sun also brings the kids back out in the evening. Just when you think you’vc suffered enough of them hoofing balls against walls – and even worse – garage doors or bouncing them off your car they’re back out again for an encore. The drab dark autumn evenings and their threat of strangers in cars asking about puppies are a welcome relief after a summer when they don’t have to get up for school and are free to go on their nightly Turkey Twizzler and Sunny Delight fuelled rampages through the streets.
The conversations. With taxi drivers. Ladies on the till. The small talk. “Ooh it’s cracking the flags.” “Where’d this weather come from?” “I’m stuck inside on a day like this.” It’s just something you can do without. Our pre-occupation of the weather whiles away many a taxi journey. The bloody sun coming out sends it into overdrive.
Sadly, and perhaps most frivolously, the sun being out means you can’t wear those ace autumn or winter jackets. The sun limits you to some form of trouser and polo shirt or perhaps tshirt but not enough to make any kind of style statement if that’s your wish. Winter. The rain. The cold. Brings with it goretex, layers, pockets, hoods, a host of materials. Knits, jumpers, shirts, boots. Exciting stuff. A full on range of apparel that isn’t an option when the giant orange death ball is hovering in the sky. Some of the greatest fashion trends in the world started in this country. Born from necessity. Hot counties with their loin cloths, burkas, hats with cork, denim shorts and fucking espadrilles just cannot compete.
So no, the sun is not our friend. We’re defined by shades of grey. Drizzle. Misty moors. Beautiful drenched autumns and crisp springs. That’s who we are.
A bee has just landed on one of my Asters. A brief window opened up for it. I love bees. But despite that I still know that Britain, like a fine white wine, is best served chilled.
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