RUSSIANS AND SUMMER....and you live in London?
It's Summer, Jim! But not as you know it....
If you go to visit a library in the UK, all the books are nicely arranged and categorised. They have the usual stuff like "Art", "Music" etc., even an area on "Roman Britain" and something called "New Releases" which are basically the stock that Waterstones can't sell. They also have an area called "Fiction". This is where they put the books about Summer.
It's not that in the UK we don't like Summer. It's just that we don't actually know what it means. We know that "sunshine" should figure quite prominently and we know that everywhere else in the world has some of it, unfortunately we are never really sure when we ourselves will get some of it - and for those of you who complain that the only thing we talk about in London is the Weather - should start to understand that this is the only variable in our life that actually matters. We all know that the Economy and Politics will always muddle through. The Victoria Line will always be too crowded and they will close the gates at Oxford Circus and the Crossrail line will never be built. There are some things in life that you can don’t change.
But alas, getting soaked on the day you choose to wear a nice dress or your best suit - we would indeed prefer to be able to plan, as it has a personal and immediate relevance - and not even the hourly slots on the "iphone Weather" app can get it right. In short, in London and England at least, "Summer" is a concept, rather than a reality. It gives rise to that wonderful optimistic expression; "every cloud has a silver lining"... I mean... Clouds, right? It reminds me of trying to persuade myself that walking along the beach near where I live, in the wind and cold, somehow is therapeutic, it can only get better? And our jealousy and why we have Tanning Studios despite all the health risks etc, is that all the other countries we can think of, know what Summer is, plan for it, enjoy it, but we don't.
It is the first week in June, in Sweden, my colleagues in Stockholm are already not answering their phones. They will be away until September. Every self-respecting Exec in Sweden will have booked their 2 weeks in Malmo etc long before coffee-break on Jan 2nd. Disturbing someone in Sweden during the summer is like interrupting someone at Confessional. At best your emails next time will have to contain 3 "Hail Mary"s, or at worst, you will be deleted from their Outlook. Maybe you will no longer be their Facebook Friend, then again, no loss with that one. I have Facebook Friends who I have never ever met. I remember once asking one for their phone number.
"But I only give that to my friends", she said. Er....right....
It is almost as bad in France, whole "arrondissements" in Paris just close down in August. Little "affiches" appear in shop windows, "Out for Lunch - back in a month". They have it so formalised, that it is almost like having an Academie Francaise for French Summer Time. And they have special words and phrases, such as, "La Rentree"... which everyone knows means it's back to school for the kids. For us in England, instead we have Tescos and Primark doing a special offer on girls skirts. It's not quite the same thing, is it? And there are simple reasons for this, quite apart from the fact that Tescos and Primark are ALWAYS doing special offers on girls skirts, which are that there is no difference for us in the UK between Spring and Autumn or Winter and Summer. The only way we have any clue that maybe Summer is coming, is when Virgin Atlantic double their prices for flights to Miami.
Which brings me to the essential point of this article. For you guys who have a formalised seasonal approach to life; you know that Winter in Moscow is bloody cold and that Summer on the Black Sea is always bloody hot. And I agree that for most family people, vacations are structured around the academic seasons; maybe you have no choice. My colleague Irina in Kyiv has six weeks every year in July in Turkey with her greater family. She is bored so bored of this, but they have been doing this for the past ten years. It is the worst of all options.... apart from all the other options, of course! And my question is..... why come to London and then have to re-invent the seasons, when you have it all perfectly organised back home?
The answer, is simple enough. It's actually cheaper this way.
Taking a summer break at the end of February, has got to be half the price of doing the same thing in August. What’s more you can also avoid the millions of Germans sitting on the beach and the football season is still going which means you can have a quick dip in the water, answer a few emails on your Wifi Ipad, grab a cocktail and still catch on Sky TV, Chelsea's home game against Arsenal. It doesn't get any better than that.
Ok, half of the little chi-chi restaurants you used to know, have closed down, because there are no tourists, right? But every hotel knows how to make a Club Sandwich.
But the real beauty of this approach, is that Summer is when you want it to be. And in that respect, I think you guys in London have got it right; if you want to go somewhere, you just get on a plane. It's a financial thing and I have no problem with that. But it also has its downside, which is that everybody else has got to fit in with you and this manifests itself in the most inconvenient of ways.
My friend is talking to me in Green Park. It is early June and she says that she can't take a vacation this year; her "vacation", will be at home. “How so?” I ask. "Well, you see", she says, "my Mother is flying in from Vinnitsa, to spend the summer with me."ShareThis