Sarah Sands: Steamy nights, parched lawns... but where's summer?

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The Independent Online

It was late evening in Piccadilly, the night Spain beat Germany. The air was sultry and fans wrapped in Spanish flags sang under Eros. It was impossible not to smile as we promenaded among them in the heat. It was lovely but it wasn't right. It felt – well, like Madrid, not London. This is not our weather.

The newspapers stopped bothering to show photographs of hysterical crowds crammed onto six inches of Camber Sands. People no longer raced to the sea because they knew the sun would still be shining the next day. We looked in wonder at parts of the country where the weather map showed rain.

Sundresses that usually come out as often as wedding dresses have been worn day after day. In the south, miracle has followed miracle. Glastonbury without mud. Wimbledon without a shower. Garden parties without a hitch. Women in best hats and blistering shoes have been pouring out of Buckingham Palace every time I pass. The parties have never been better, but the gardens have suffered. The parks are dust bowls and our back lawns are frazzled. There is a price to pay for sun. It is not just a cultural shift we have made, with our café nightlife and our siestas. Our landscape has become foreign.

Did I mention wedding dresses? Yesterday my son married his translucently beautiful fiancée. It has been almost a year in the planning. "The only thing you can't fix is the weather," we warned the determined bride. On Friday I tiptoed into the pretty church in Goudhurst in Kent for the rehearsal. Saxon stone against cobalt sky. On an exceptional day it's said to be possible to see more than 50 churches from here over a distance of 40 miles. This was such a day. Afterwards we went for drinks at a farmhouse overlooking Sissinghurst. These were scenes of which wedding planners' dreams are made.

Back in London, the city is steaming. An ambulance crew tends a derelict in Holborn who seems to have passed out from the heat rather than the booze. Nobody can sleep – pillows are dragged on to balconies. Six months ago, as that winter lingered, days like these seemed a fantasy. When they arrived we proclaimed "glorious weather". By the end of last week we'd had enough.

Those outdoor heaters at restaurants now seem grotesque. At the Chiswick House party last Thursday the middle classes of west London sweated in the sun. At the Serpentine Party, guests in backless dresses danced in the open air to Dizzee Rascal. But I was not alone in spotting something of greater interest: a Dyson fan alongside the DJ's turntable; the fan that promises to cool the air without chopping it. As Dizzee (or Mr Rascal, as Jeremy Paxman puts it) swore flirtatiously at the trophy wives in the audience, I swooned over the smooth airflow generated by James Dyson's latest invention.

"This is 1976," we say to younger colleagues who were not then born. Melting tarmac on the roads, the longest summer. This is it, all over again. But the truth is good weather, like happiness, makes us uneasy. It isn't meant to be like this. It has gone far beyond realistic expectation. Meteorology, where is thy sting?

I have bought up all the Gap T-shirts and Zara flimsy skirts I can find. I have a swimming costume. For Cornwall. My husband reads out the five-day forecast. Saturday: sunshine. Sunday: sunshine. Monday (holiday starts!): light rain. Tuesday: heavy rain. The world is restored to its usual orbit.

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

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