How to annoy a summer junkie - wear long trousers in 25-degree heat, and insist on eating indoors

Grace Dent pays tribute to Summer Marshals - the self-appointed Solero-slurping sun-obsessives in our midsts who doggedly ensure everyone gets the most out of the sun

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The Independent Online

As the days grow brighter with an increasing chance of sunny spells, I must pay tribute to a body of people who toil so hard during the summer months on all our behalves. Summer Marshals, as I call them – and my good friend Matthew is a great example – are the self-appointed Solero-slurping sun-obsessives in our midsts who doggedly ensure everyone gets the most out of the sun. Whether you want it or not. Often not.

"I'm writing a column about people as annoying as you are during summer," I told Matthew, "People who call ahead to restaurants to ensure we're all now dining al fresco. Even when al fresco is next to a traffic jam, because you like the sun. People like you who, at the first sign of sun, make people like me trek to Hampstead Heath to eat a picnic next to a swamp."

Matthew seemed unruffled. But then he would be. He gets a lot of Vitamin D. His skin glows. He's the sort of man who when we go on holiday has swimming trunks on before we reach passport control. "People like you!" I continued. "Summer obsessives! The enemy of ex-goths, the sensitive skinned and hay-fever sufferers!" I could have added: and hobby-agoraphobics, forced-fun avoiders, and anyone else who like me who, while not being complete monsters, would take an afternoon indoors watching HBO over farting about in the park with a frisbee.

It's not the sun I'm protesting about – I am largely pro being warmer – but the pressure to enjoy it. If you ask a sun-worshipper if it's possible to sit somewhere under a shady tree with a nearby loo when they unveil plans to drink prosecco in the park at 3pm in mid-August, they will gaze at you like you've asked them to provide a solid pewter zebra.

Summer Marshals are everywhere chivvying people into situations with beach balls and cooler bags they'd never go near without due force. To my reckoning at least half the poor buggers on a Camber Sands beach in July eating sandy finger rolls would rather be inside a Vue Cinema with air con watching Fast & Furious 7. But people on the dark side can never admit this. The "We Love Summer" lobby would be disgusted. "So this is an age-old story of good versus evil, then?" Matthew said. This is the sort of totalitarian thinking you're up against with sun-lovers.

 

Of course, winding these people up is a lot of fun. Last week, for example, I swore blind to be unable to grasp the rules of their holy ritual of Swingball. "Hang on? There are rules? You don't just bat it hard until you hit someone?" Another time I claimed to be severely allergic to cheap paddling pools. But have you seen the sort of person in Argos perusing the family-sized paddling pools? They're exactly the sort of person you can imagine lurking at a pool orgy – nude aside from a solitary Verruca sock. No. just no.

I am also heavily vocal about stupid little throwaway barbecues which only cook three chipolata sausages while coating all nearby revellers in acrid dust. When I come to power anyone who brings shop-bought coleslaw – the inhumanity – to a gathering and then asks which side of the barbecue grill is vegan will be instantly imprisoned.

But the No. 1 way to troll a summer junkie is to meet them for lunch in 25-degree heat wearing a dark-coloured fabric or full-length trousers. This is highly antagonistic behaviour. "But aren't you hot?" the sun junkie will cry, bewildered that you aren't dressed like Pepsi in Wham!'s "Club Tropicana" video or Christopher Biggins on safari. "But you must be BOILING! Don't you own anything pastel? Haven't you got any shorts? How can your skin breathe? Aren't you uncomfortable?"

"No," I always want to say. "I am completely comfortable because I am wearing the style of clothes that – via many decades of trial and error – I have decided suit me. And yes, they are dark, and yes they have sleeves and indeed I do slightly resemble Edward Scissorhands, but I am happy. Bugger off, face-ache, and have a Strawberry Zoom. Leave me be."

But I don't say this. Summer Marshals are so damn happy in summer. It would be like punching a puppy. And we all know the only way is down for these people, come September, when the nights shorten and all right-minded people re-embrace knitwear, Campbells soup, the comforting burr of the central heating system, and pressure-free cosy nights under sofa-duvets.

"I've had a think why I always make us really enjoy Summer," Matthew offered, "It's to do with school days. Remember when the teacher let you work outside and suddenly everything was better? That's how I feel. Nothing boring happens outdoors." "That sounds like the sort of info you might write on an application form to become a tramp," I said. Our friendship stays strong despite our differences. We're having lunch this weekend. On an unshaded sun terrace, next to a wasps' nest, probably.

@gracedent

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