You might say British summertime combines the advantages of Iceland with those of the Costa del Sol. At 10pm there is still an arctic glimmer of light in the sky - but 12 hours later people are getting their kit off in the parks.
And it is always so entertainingly brief. Think about it. In eight weeks summer will be practically finished, bar the wasps and the August Bank Holiday. The shadows will be lengthening; the lawns will be gathering dew. Then we will go back to our normal lives again. What a thigh-slapping meteorological joke this will all have been.
Being such a bizarre departure from the norm, British summer is hard not to celebrate in one way or another. While it lasts, some people seem to think they are on holiday even when lots of them are working 12 hours a day.
Look at them, throwing off their jackets to lie back on grassy roundabouts surrounded by moving traffic. People are eating lunchtime sandwiches sitting on concrete slabs and talking to strangers. They are buying expensive sunglasses and frocks which can be worn only once or twice a year. Next week they will probably be having automatic sprinklers and barbecues built in their garden. Then it'll be winter again. Officially.
In one sense, I suppose, coming on holiday to Britain as a tourist during summer must be like visiting Rio during Carnival. Or Seville during Semana Santa. Or Pamplona during the running of the bulls. When the sun comes out we briefly come to resemble a nation of fire-eating, nude transvestites. As the brochures might have it - in fact - we explode in a rampant, exuberant fiesta of local colour. You people of Rio and Seville will come and see it on your honeymoon, then go home showing friends the video for years afterwards.
It almost makes you feel pity for the citizens of most of the Mediterranean, where summer drags on tiresomely for month after month. Down there people take it all so much for granted. They even build their apartments with balconies on them, and pavements with cafes on them. Midnight assignments in the piazzas? Bodies half-glimpsed through transparent silk? The soft caress of warm air on bare skin? Bah. Worthless commonplaces, all of them, if you live in a place where hot weather doesn't know when to stop.
In Iceland, meanwhile, the arrival of summer signifies that the snow soon may be turning to rain. The winds do not abate. The temperature in the steam baths neither increases nor decreases by a fraction of a degree. On the other hand, the people of that odd little country presumably see the British in much the same light as lots of us seem to view the peoples of the Mediterranean, namely as lucky scoundrels with far more warm sunshine than they can possibly deserve.Reuse content