Tag Archives: holidays

Becky says things about … the last days of term

Can you hear that, fair Listener? It is the ecstatic collective squeal of school children around the globe as we approach the summer holidays.

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And, if you listen carefully, you will hear the exhausted wails of several thousand teachers.

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Fact: there is nothing more exciting than the last days of term.

Amongst the hysteria and the chaos and the inevitable child that got over-excited and quietly soiled herself in assembly, one thing was certain as we approached that last golden week: teachers would stop doing their one job.

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Each lesson would become a lucky dip of unfathomable treats. What would await us on the other side of the door? A TV on wheels, stationed at the front of the class like a proud, tubby Emperor?

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Or a wordsearch? The end of term is the one time in a human being’s life when a wordsearch is legitinately and shamelessly thrilling. When presented as an alternative to distilling some water, or reciting the German for ‘When the weather is good, I play tennis*’, a wordsearch is your ticket to happiness.

*Wenn das Wetter gut its, spiele ich Tennis. (Aber, wenn das Wetter schlecht ist, spiele ich Tischtennis.)

Sometimes, however, the teachers couldn’t even bring themselves to provide us with any form of stimuli, and instead left us to our own devices.

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Oh, the thrill of getting away with slight alterations to your uniform! The teachers’ stringent term-time sartorial rules would gradually relax in the run-up to the holidays – they would half-heartedly frown at your trainers, or your whimsical approach to doing up your tie – until eventually they literally didn’t give a shit.

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There were vague last-ditch attempts to send us on our way with some educational remnants in our brains, by making us sit through a final assembly on the importance of listening to our parents and doing our Tudor projects over the holidays, and remembering at all times that we were representatives of the school, but they may as well have been talking to a hedge.

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And the peak of a mountain of almost unbearable happiness? The half day.

As the clock inched to 1pm on that final day, the teacher would take a last register and tell us to get the hell out, and as we left the school gates we would wipe away a single tear.

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Oh, yes, I enjoyed years and years of tremendously exciting last days of term.

Until my very, very last day of term, in my third and final year of university.

I sat my last exam in the second week of a six week term. As I put down my pen on my Literature of World War One exam, I realised, with a strange mixture of elation and trepidation, that I had just completed my life in education. The years of coursework, seminars, lectures, revising, binge-eating Malteasers, were over. (Happily, it soon transpired that my life of binge-eating Malteasers had only just begun.) Naturally, I wanted to celebrate.

I rushed into the pub, expecting to find willing drink-gin-until-we-puke comrades, but was instead met with a silent citadel of revision.

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I went home, had a cup of tea and watched Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, so I think you’ll find I had the last laugh.

So, enjoy these last days of term, particularly if they are your very last, as from now on there are no last days of term: just a continuous drudgery of work with no foreseeable end.

Enjoy!

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Becky says things about … Brits abroad

Greetings! Guten Tag! Bonjour! And other such variants of a universal salutatory expression!

As the summer holidays are now officially dead, gone, ended and over, it seems appropriate to rejoice in some sweeping stereotypical generalisations about us Brits on holiday, because it’s sweeping stereotypical generalisations that make the world go round.

We just love our holibobs. We like booking them in January, when the weather is at its most vile, as it gives us something to look forward to in the grey wastelands of our wintery lives. We then forget about them until around June, when we panic and obsessively make lists of the essential items we need to purchase (3,000 gallons of factor 170 suncream, 15 bikinis, new beach towel because the Seaworld Florida one never really recovered from last summer’s fortnight in Torremolinos), and make lists of friends and neighbours entrusted to feed the cat and water the begonias.

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When it comes to the day of departure, we cannot wait to get into our holiday garb. It’s minus four degrees and raining at home, but will that stop us from adorning our linen trousers and our t-shirts? Perhaps even daring to sport an impish straw hat? No! We’re flip-flopped to the hilt, our cardigans are casually draped over our shoulders, and yes we may contract hypothermia in the polar blast of the plane air conditioning, but who cares! WE’RE GOING TO SOMEWHERE WHERE THE SUN WILL DEFINITELY BE SHINING AND WE SHALL FORGET WHAT IT IS TO BE COLD.

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Now, dear Listener, you may think that holidays are a time to relax; to do away with piddling stresses and woes, and to float along the soft tide of quietude. WRONG. By the time we get to our hotel, we will have complained about the heat, the delayed transfer from the airport, foreign drivers’ irresponsible disregard for road safety, and once we are in our hotel we will immediately complain about the hard beds and the faint discolouration of the bathroom tiles.

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But all that is by the by, because something paramount must take place within two hours of our pale, pasty feet touching foreign soil: we must have a beer.

The first sip of a cold beer at a poolside bar is perhaps the happiest moment of a Brit’s life. Yes, we’ve drunk beer before – hell, we had a few cheeky ones last night to help us get to sleep at 8pm for our 3am rise – but every Brit knows that when a glass of Carlsberg is consumed whilst sitting in a plastic chair at a sticky table, overlooking a kidney-shaped pool and PALM TREES, amidst an angelic cacophony of Euro-trance, it is akin to Christ himself pulling up the chair next to us and saying ‘You have won First Prize in the ‘Who is the Best Human?’ competition, and this is your reward’.

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That first beer is just the beginning, Listener. A particular thrill on holiday – and one that Brits are exceptionally fond of – is consuming distasteful amounts of alcohol. In normal home and work life it would be deemed inappropriate – worrying, even – to crack open a can of beer at half ten in the morning, but in the sweaty luxury of a poolside sunbed, it is a must. Why read your Danielle Steel or your Dan Brown in solemn sobriety when you can paddle in the wooziness of midday boozing! To hell with social convention, you’re on holiday! Seize the day! Or, alternatively, let it slip by in a nauseas fug of alcohol-induced heatstroke.

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And daytime drinking is just the start. Night-time drinking on holiday is like winning the lottery. Why? Because we can sit outside without wearing a coat. This. Is. The. Best.

The concept of sitting at a table that is outside, at night, in weather that is still warm, is alien to us. It is electrifying. It doesn’t matter where that table is, as long as it’s outside. In the warm, un-rainy air.

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At this outside table (outside!!!!) we will get drunk. We will imbibe everything. We will make ambitious and wholly unrealistic plans to move to Thailand and set up a peace-loving commune and sleep on beds of hibiscus. We will get out the obligatory pack of pornographic playing cards we bought from the poolside shop and we will try to remember the rules of Rummy. We will strike up a slurring conversation with the German couple next to us and gush over how their country’s reputation for cleanliness fully counteracts anything dodgy they may have done historically. We will order bowl upon bowl of nuts. We will insist on calling the waiter Pedro, even though his name is actually Colin. We will eventually rise from our outside table and stumble to our room, where we will hit our heads on the French doors, fall over the edge of the very hard bed, and pass out in our flip flops. And this will have been the most successful day of our lives.

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By day four, we will have mild alcohol poisoning, we won’t have had a bowel movement since Heathrow, and we will be sporting some asymmetrical strips of sunburn; namely on our shoulders, back, shins, nose, and chest. We cannot apply suncream, Listener. We haven’t had enough practice. There’s not much call for it on our isles.

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And we will start to yearn for food from home. The Boy Scouts among us will have a small cellophane bag of Tetley’s teabags in the zippy compartment of our suitcases (be prepared!), with which we have made blissful cups of tea (only after boiling the water seven times – you can never be too careful with that questionable foreign water) – but we miss our home comforts. So we go to the supermarket. And, dear Listener, there is nothing quite so exciting than finding a jar of real live Branston Pickle in a Greek supermarket.

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We will spend eighteen euros on a jar of Branston Pickle and a packet of Jacob’s Crackers and we will scoff them on our balcony overlooking the Ionian Sea (whilst doing The Sun crossword (six euros)), and we will be overcome by such a deep sense of contentment that it will bring a tear to our eye, for we have married the soothing comforts of home with the exotic novelty of abroad. We are winners.

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And when we return home to our bleak, grey island, we will curse the mundanity of Branston Pickle, Jacob’s Crackers, The Sun and Carlsberg, and yearn for the vibrant goodness of vine tomatoes, olives, fresh fruit and feta cheese (despite the fact that on the last day of our holiday we declared that if we ever saw another piece of feta cheese again we’d strangle our own mothers), and wistfully search the internetweb for next year’s holiday.

And as long as we exist, and foreign isles with warmer climes exist, this whole scenario will go on and on and on until the end of time, or at least until people stop making sweeping stereotypical generalisations about the whole thing.

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Becky says things about … Christmas as a grown-up VS Christmas as a kid

YULETIDE FELICITATIONS TO YOU, MOST CHRISTMASSY LISTENERS!! 

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The season of goodwill and gastronomic assault is upon us, the fairy lights are twinkling, the crooners are crooning, the kids are wetting themselves with excitement that Father Christmas is going to shower them with gifts, and the grown-ups are wetting themselves with fear that the tree is too big, the turkey is too small and the bank account is empty – which begs the important seasonal question: is Christmas as brilliant for grown-ups as it is for kids?

The Run-Up to Christmas

KIDS: You are in a constant frenzy and on the verge of soiling yourself. School is a dream: you spend lessons doing festive-themed wordsearches, colouring festive-themed pictures, or – and this is the most brilliant thing in the world – your teacher greets you with the words ‘I thought we’d watch a video today’, and she wheels the TV to the front of the class, shoves in a Disney film, turns off the lights, and life has never been more spectacular. 

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The world has become a sparkling, magical place. You are dribbling over Polly Pockets and Barbies and Lego and are hoping against hope that Father Christmas gets the letter you sent him, although you’re suspicious about the effectiveness of a postal system that involves chucking the letter up the chimney, especially as you saw said letter flutter down behind the fire grate and land amongst a load of dead woodlice, but your parents have assured you it’ll get to Lapland (wherever the hell that is. WHO CARES??) The house smells of pine, and the lounge furniture has been rearranged to make room for the Christmas tree, a necessary process which never ceases to be unfathomably thrilling.

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Christmas is the best thing ever ever ever.

GROWN-UPS: Work is becoming more tolerable because all you are doing is eating Celebrations, leaving post-its on your colleague’s monitor that say ‘All I want for Christmas is… you to stop bringing in f***ing leftover chilli for lunch’, and spending days trying to cure your hangover from yet another Christmas booze-up the night before.

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The world is a magical sparkly place, and you are enjoying the warm glow of lights twinkling in windows, but you are NOT enjoying the gladiatorial skirmish of Christmas shopping or the constant ejaculation of money from your purse, or the realisation that everything on your Christmas list are things you need like a new slow-cooker or a dustbuster or a nice practical desktop filing system, or the fact that you’ve done your back in rearranging the bloody lounge furniture.

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WINNER: Kids. The run-up to Christmas is a parade of relentless glee, mainly founded on a shroud of lies about a mythical avuncular stranger bearing gifts, the value of which you have no concept, and life is magnificent. Grown-ups are just finding the whole thing a bit tiring.

PRESENTS

KIDS: You have come out in prickly heat because you just cannot decide which of your phenomenal presents you are going to play with first. Will you perform an elaborate and heartwarming drama with your new Sylvanian families in your new dollshouse, involving Master Owl hiding all Mrs Badger’s silverwear under the stairs, much to the chargrin of Mrs Hedgehog the Cook? Will you construct the greatest feat of architectural mastery the Lego world has ever seen? Will you dress up your new Barbie in her sparkly ballgown that is so beautiful it is breaking your heart?

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It doesn’t matter what you play with first. Because the day ahead is a neverending heaven of playing, eating, playing and playing, and you wish it could be Christmas every day.

GROWN-UPS: You are smiling politely at your new desktop filing system, and spend 49 seconds arranging it neatly on your desk. You are thrilled with your new perfume and spray it on your wrist. Then you place it back in its box. Then you flick through your new book for a bit. Words and words. Then you sniff your new bubble bath and consider how nice it will make your skin smell after your bath. Then you think you should probably clean up those pine needles under the tree with your new dustbuster, and go and put the turkey on.

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WINNER: Kids again. You can play with stuff. All day. You won’t hear a grown-up gasping ‘Please can I plug in my new slow-cooker and cook something really slowly now????’

FOOD

KIDS: You are astounded by the abundance of festive victuals. You haven’t had lunch yet but you are already stuffed with mini mince pies, half a chocolate reindeer, a box of peppermint creams, and all the Quality Street toffee pennies. You are beside yourself at the presence of sausages with your roast dinner. That’s like two meals in one. You eat Christmas pudding until you feel sick, and then you spend half an hour puking it all back up again in the downstairs toilet while your mum rubs your back and tells you off for having eyes bigger than your stomach.

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You finish Christmas Day delighted with your gastric prowess, the puking incident is forgotten, and you go to bed and eat the rest of your chocolate reindeer under the covers.

GROWN-UPS: You are astounded by the abundance of festive victuals. You haven’t had lunch yet but you are already stuffed and a bit drunk with smoked salmon, scrambled egg, half a bottle of Bucks Fizz, a box of chocolate liquors and all the Quality Street big purple ones. You wish you’d cooked more sausages, you eat two meals’ worth of Christmas dinner, but you refuse Christmas pudding because you’ve never really enjoyed it since you vomited after eating too much of it as a kid. You finish Christmas Day in a drunken haze with your face in a Vintage Gouda and a vague despair at the weight you’ve put on but you don’t care because there’s CHEESE.

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WINNER: Grown-ups. Your stomach is bigger, your tastes are more refined, and you’ve learnt from childhood vomiting experiences. And you can drink enough mulled wine, champagne and port to sink a ship whilst laughing at the kids for having to make do with crappy squash.

CHRISTMAS FILMS

KIDS: You cry and cry at the end of The Snowman because the little boy lost his Snowman friend and he had had such a nice time with his Snowman friend and it’s just so sad that the Snowman friend had to melt like that, and what’s more, the fact you’re crying at Christmas is making you cry even more because no one should cry at Christmas, but oh my goodness me your new rollar skates are the best things ever and you immediately forget about the sad melted Snowman friend. 

GROWN-UPS: You cry and cry at the end of The Snowman because the little boy lost his Snowman friend and life is so brief and joys are so fleeting and everything good ends up dark and shit and death is only round the corner, and the fact you’re crying at Christmas is making you cry even more because it’s the ninth ruddy time you’ve cried this Christmas because everyone cries at Christmas and where the hell is the eggnog and you can’t stop thinking about death.

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WINNER: Kids. A blissful ignorance of all the profoundly depressing themes that permeate almost every single Christmas film is essential for festive self-preservation.

FAMILY

KIDS: After the initial shock of being manhandled by various people you vaguely remember from last Christmas, you are required to present to the assembled company a comprehensive list of your Christmas presents, after which you will be told you’re a very lucky girl and that they didn’t have nearly so many presents when they were children. Once the fourth batch of mulled wine has come out and Uncle Clive has started playing House of the Rising Sun on his guitar, you seize your opportunity to escape and resume building your neo-Gothic inspired Lego mansion. You return to the lounge an hour later to find everyone asleep and you cannot fathom how insufferably boring it must be to be a grown-up who falls asleep on Christmas Day.

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GROWN-UPS: After the initial shock at how many kids your cousins have managed to churn out and ignoring a look from your mother that says ‘When are you going to have one?’, you get heavily involved in the alcohol to numb the bewildering amounts of noise the kids are making as they leap around to something called a Wii, and after the fourth batch of mulled wine has been handed round you get a warm fuzzy glow of affection for these mental relatives who are currently dancing madly to Uncle Clive playing House of the Rising Sun on his guitar, and two hours later you wake up with Aunt Audrey dribbling onto your shoulder and her false teeth in your lap, and you are mortified that you have become so insufferably old and boring and grown-up as to fall asleep on Christmas Day.

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WINNER: Grown-ups. Kids have the benefit of being able to escape the ridiculousness of grown-ups at Christmas, whilst grown-ups have the benefit of being able to drink enough alcohol to remember that they adore their relatives and then  pass out to escape the ridiculousness of kids at Christmas.

So there we have it. Kids: 3, grown-ups: 2. A close call, a small victory for the small people, and one that we should instantly forget about because Christmas can be ruddy brilliant whether we’re 8, 28, 58 or 88 (although grown-ups have the staggering benefit of MULLED WINE, and enjoy your crappy squash, kids).

Happy Christmas one and all, thank you for being such amazingly devoted and wonderful Listeners to the things that I say, and may Father Christmas bring you everything your hearts desire (within reason – a latex bodysuit is a frankly perverted desire).

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Becky says things about … the British people VS a heatwave

Firstly, on behalf of the British people I must say to all my overseas Listeners a most magnificent

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because just two weeks ago, I made a desperate plea for summer and asked all you sunny countries to send us a bit of sunshine after our weather people told us we were doomed to be rained on for the next ten years.

And, my sweetest, most generous overseas Listeners, LOOK AT THIS:

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Whatever trickery or witchcraft you used to convey your sunshine over to us, KEEP IT COMING!! We are thrilled. Thrilled, bemused, befuddled, a little frightened, rather suspicious, and generally a bit all over the place.

You see, whilst we British spend 100% of our time moaning about the weather and praying for a heatwave, when it eventually turns up it becomes THE ONLY THING HAPPENING IN OUR LIVES RIGHT NOW, and it sets into motion a complex behavioural process.

The first thing we do is get sunburnt. Instantly. Our fragile complexions are so unaccustomed to direct sunlight that the slightest exposure leads us to receive, without fail, strips of burning, peeling, crusty crimson in the following places:

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The second thing we do is talk about it. Endlessly. We can’t buy a newspaper without saying ‘Thanks very much. Hot enough for you?’ We can’t peruse a menu without saying ‘Oh, it’s too hot for potatoes’. We can’t greet a chum in the street without asking ‘Off to enjoy the sun, are you?’

Every line of conversation can be related to the weather, no matter how irrelevant or inappropriate.

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The third thing we do is read and write about it. When Britain gets hot and sunny for an extended period of time, there is no other news. Distant conflicts, deadly pandemics and impending natural disasters pale in comparison to the weather. We want no part of world news. Why? We want to experience this heatwave in our own way, then read about how other parts of the country experienced it to make sure we didn’t imagine it. A heatwave in England is news.

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The fourth thing we do is arrange outdoor activities. We enter a frantic race of Man VS Nature to organise picnics, BBQs, boat trips, afternoons in pub gardens, walks, hikes, festivals, small gatherings on the patio with Pimms and nibbles, before our tremendous good luck ends and the rain returns.

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The fifth thing we do is carry out arranged outdoor activities. No bit of pavement, no patch of wasteland, no stretch of motorway is unsuitable in our quest for alfresco pursuits.

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The sixth thing we do is become terribly dramatic about it. Within an hour of a heatwave commencing, we Brits are panting, blowing out our cheeks and gasping ‘Phew, it’s a scorcher’, we’re wiping the sweat from our reddened brows, we’re peering deliriously through the haze in search of refreshment, and we’re starting to worry about drought and burning to death. Rail services are cancelled for fear of melting tracks, cars are abandoned, people are fainting all over the place, and the Government have issued a hosepipe ban and declared a national state of emergency.

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The seventh thing we do is complain about it. This occurs on approximately the third day of a heatwave. We’ve spent two days frantically attending BBQs and picnics, we’re burnt to buggery, we’ve run out of clothes due to changing outfits at the first sign of sweat during the dramatic stage, our water bill has gone through the roof because we’re showering 12 times a day, none of us have slept since this wretched heatwave began because ‘there’s just no air in my bedroom’, and none of us are enjoying ourselves.

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And when the heatwave finally ends, which will be approximately four days sooner than the weather people predicted, and the clouds, wind and rain returns, we all breathe a sigh of relief and get on with our lives.

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So thanks very much for sending us some sun, but … just no more, okay?

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Becky says things about … a plea for summer

Dear The Rest of the World

Hello. My name is Becky. I live in England.

Someone’s got to.

I am writing on behalf of my country. This is not a begging letter as such; it’s more of polite request from one nation to another at a time of crisis.

You see, we in England – you know, that poor sod of a country that looks like a toddler has been sick on the world – have just been informed by our Weather Lords (otherwise known as the Met Office) that we, to put it bluntly, can shove our summers up our flabby English arses.

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Apparently, due to the fact that the Atlantic is going through a ‘warm spell’, we are going to get rained on. For a decade. Possibly two. One of our wonderful newspapers – ironically called The Sun (oh, such vicious irony) – reports it here.

Now, clearly we are not thrilled by this news. We love summer. We haven’t had a proper one since 2006. There are 5, 6, 7 year-olds in this country who don’t know what summer is. In fact, if we were to suddenly have a summer, it may cause them psychological damage.

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To understand our plight, here are some useful statistics:

  • English families own an average of 49.6 umbrellas per household.
  • More English people die on the one sunny day of the year in the stampede for BBQ coals and sausages than in the rest of the 364 days of the year put together.
  • In England, yearly sales of an expensive perfume made from scrapings of goat’s bladder and guinea pig mucus are higher than sales of sun cream.
  • The average 6 year-old thinks a ‘bucket and spade’ is the name of a level on Mario Kart.
  • The average English person cannot watch an episode of Baywatch without crying. Not at David Hasselhoff’s beauty, but at the weather.

(Statistics provided by beckymakesupstatistics.com.)

But we are a nation of triers. We stoically stand around in mud at our music festivals (curative trench foot measures really have improved). We like to keep our gardens looking nice even though we can only spend three days a year sitting in them. We love a BBQ. Boy, we just love a BBQ.

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But you know what?

It’s rubbish.

We have lived in a damp, dark cave for too long. And it’s only going to get worse.

So please. This is a plea to the rest of the world to HELP US. For the love of God.

HELP US.

Australia: you have heaps of sun. I mean, do you really need it all? Don’t you get tired of it? Constantly feeling sweaty, always having to take cool-down showers? It must be really, really irritating. And you don’t even have enough people to appreciate it! 23 million people! In a country  31 times the size of England.

Come on. Does that sound fair? I’m sure all that dirt and rock is really making the best of your endlessly sunny days.

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And Greece. Your weather is lovely. I was on your sunny shores just recently, and I got more Vitamin D in 10 days than I’ve had in the last 10 years. Yeah, I know you’re a bit strapped for cash at the moment, and things aren’t great, so why not ship over some of your sun to us! Think what you’d save on the air conditioning!  The woolly jumper industry would go through the roof!

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Our chums in America. Or buddies, if you will. Hi there. You remember us. We’re like you’re cute little sister who keeps falling over and hurting her knee. You like us. Will you help us out? I know you’ve got loads of sun because I’ve been to lots of your states. It took me a mere 20 minutes to get sunstroke in Death Valley. Is that necessary? Can’t you turn the heat down a bit? Give us a few degrees? And what about Utah? I saw nothing but blue skies in Utah, and there is a lot of empty space in that state. Florida? Fed up with us pasty English folk descending on you every month of the year and eating all your doughnuts and talking loudly about how nice the weather is in the queues at Disneyworld? Well give us some sun to take home with us and we’ll stay in our country a bit more and won’t bother you. 

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I don’t know how you’re going to do it. I don’t know which airline offers the best rates on transporting sun. I don’t know whether you can take it as hand luggage or whether you’d have to check it in. I just don’t know. I’m just asking you to help us. Please. Send us some sun. Don’t keep it all to yourselves. Share and share alike.

And as I wrote that sentence, the sun came out. Whoever sent that over: THANK YOU.

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It’s gone back in again. STOP PLAYING MIND GAMES WITH US. WE ARE FRAGILE AND PRONE TO WEATHER-INDUCED HYSTERIA.

Thank you for listening

Kind regards

Becky (on behalf of England) xx

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