Sarah Sands: A fortnight of sun has turned us all into Italians

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The Independent Online

British military chiefs are delighted with the Italians, who have been among the most willing of the coalition in Libya. It is a funny old world when we are shoulder to shoulder with the Italians and at arm's length from the Americans. But it is all part of our drift towards the Mediterranean.

It may be my imagination, but when British television reporters broadcast from Italian bases, they seem to gesticulate more – and surely the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has a permanent tan these days? Back in the UK, David Cameron simply refuses to pay his EU bill, with a shrug. And with bumper bank holidays, and unexpectedly, everlastingly warm days, our work ethic has been shot to pieces.

It is a mathematical puzzle that the number of unemployed seems nowhere near as high as the number of people who were lying out in London parks or wiling away afternoons at riverside restaurants last week. How does it work? Lazy Monday-to-Sunday afternoons, civilised drinking on the pavements, permanent football in the park. Even more strangely, I have seen no red-bellied men. The mysterious why-aren't-they-working population in London parks could mostly hold their own on the Sartorialist website. Is it possible that we have learnt not only to behave but also to dress like Mediterraneans?

London has always been cosmopolitan; now the royal wedding has turned it into a tourist magnet. Looking at the newspaper photographs of flags and guardsmen and Westminster Abbey, I realise that the capital has become a series of postcards. Out on the streets, even the obsession with cars is waning. It feels as if we are nearing a tipping point, where bicycles and scooters can be the norm. In London, the Boris bikes are becoming a way of life. Last week I cycled through Hyde Park, up the Mall, across Horse Guards Parade and past Downing Street and felt for the first time that the roads could belong to cyclists.

None of this is good for political campaigners. Nick Clegg is European enough to know that when the sun is out and the weekend stretches ahead, you are not going to head for the Institute for Public Policy Research. As Conservatives have always understood, it is grievance that makes you left-wing. If you are sitting out on the lawn this weekend, listening to birdsong, you are voting for the status quo. It is hard to get too worked up over AV when you are gasping at the wisteria.

The British usually manage heat as well as they do their drink. But the early arrival of summer has put almost everyone in a benign mood. On Friday, even as gridlock formed on the M40, there was no sign of road rage in the 25C heat. People wound down their windows and put their feet up on the dashboard. The young and single were eyeing each up other in their mirrors.

So in the south of England I can report that we are all southern Europeans now. Last year, we cooked roast lamb and apple crumble on Easter Sunday. This year, we are eating Moroccan lamb and a Frenchie-looking tart. Our only worry is that it has peaked too early. The cherry blossom is starting to fall and the apple blossom in full flower. There must be some cold to come.

After a sunny fortnight, we look different, we eat differently, we behave differently. It feels totally natural. Let's hope the weather breaks before we start clamouring to join the euro.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'