The British Summer

To the weather. Which is pretty simple. Rain or showers for much of England and Wales with scattered showers in Scotland and Northern Ireland”, said a newsreader on the radio this morning.

It is August and the weather here in the UK is a familiar mix of brief spells of sunshine punctuated by rain. A lot of rain. In fact it is predicted to rain all this week with yellow alerts in place for torrential downpours and thunderstorms.

So, a typical soggy summer here in Britain. A year after we returned to live in England I’m still shocked by how much it rains here in June, July and August. I am a rare individual in our village because I love the damp climate. While everyone around us grumbles about the unseasonal weather and grudgingly relocates the annual fête to the village hall or shuffles guests at a weekend barbecue into the garage I can’t help but feel this is because they have never lived in a drought-prone area with long periods of 40 degree heat.

Well I have - and it is hellish. When we were situated inland in the Axarquía I began to worry about the madness of the summer months as soon as Easter was over. Not just the extreme heat which meant us hiding within the thickwalls of our ‘casa de campo’ with the shutters down while our vegetable garden shrivelled away, only emerging from the gloom to jump into the car and whack up the a/c but worse, not a drop of municipal water for weeks on end.

Now we no longer have to endure Andalusian summers we never will, willingly, again. Here in East Anglia - actually one of the driest areas of the UK - the hedgerows are still dark green and verdant, the leafy trees offer shade when the sun occasionally burns bright and our garden is carpeted with soft springy grass.

Better still we live close to a famously pretty river, the Stour, which was painted by John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough among others and meanders through fields and meadows lined with weeping willows to the sea.

In the summer the river is brimming with life. On the water moor hens, ducks and swans paddle around the swathes of wild watercress and kayakers, making the most of the relative warmth and the long light evenings, navigate their way over locks and weirs. It sounds too good to be true but it is all real.

Last Saturday Sudbury hosted its 137th Regatta. Hundreds of valuable rowing boats were towed to the town from locations all over Britain. Gazebos lined the stretch of waterfront where the racing was to take place and rowers in team-matched lycra onesies gathered together. There was a bouncy castle, a cake stall and the ubiquitous beer and burger tent.

Mid afternoon the skies turned dark, there was an ominous roll of thunder and the rain began. It poured and poured and great streaks of lightening shot through the air. The beer tent where we had fortuitously found ourselves at the right time began to sag with the weight of water and anyone left outside was completely soaked through. I couldn’t stop smiling. Of all the things I love about England now summer rain is my absolute favourite. After many sweltering Augusts in Andalucía it seems like a miracle.