Becky says things about … an American road trip – PART 4: Nashville

Not long after leaving Gatlinburg, and winding our way out of the sultry haze of the Smokey Mountains, Mother Nature decided she’d spoilt us with all the endless clear blue skies, and unleashed hell, in the form of a solid wall of rain.

Immediately, the ability to use my eyes to see things was rendered completely useless.

With astounding collective proficiency, myself and my fellow road users all slowed from 70mph to 20mph in about four seconds, and I crawled through the grey torrent for what seemed like an age, hoping fervently that I was still on the road (I say hoping, because I could see neither the end of the car bonnet, nor any evidence of road on either side).

This devilish downfall did eventually ease, but it set the scene for our visit to Nashville. We arrived at our Best Western in the rain, and admired our room’s view of the hotel pool in the rain, and overheard a conversation in the lobby that this was the most rain the city had had in approximately five billion years.

But despite the rain, we had matters to attend to: a trip to the Bluebird Café.

The Bluebird Café is a ‘listening room’: a tiny venue the size of someone’s living room, seating only about 70 guests; in the centre of the jumble of tables is a circle of four chairs where the musicians play their music to each other and the privileged audience who have managed to get through the Glastonbury-style competitive ticket process. The novelty is you don’t know who you’re going to see until you get there. We’re not talking mega stars here, although apparently Taylor Swift turned up there recently. So you never know who you’ll end up listening to.

Due to the intimate size of the Bluebird Café, it is necessary (and delightfully peculiar) to share tables with complete strangers, so Sarah and I were ushered through the tangle of fairy lights and chair legs to a table at which four 60-somethings were already sitting.

Now, we were acutely aware throughout our entire trip in the Deep South that us Londoners stuck out like a sore thumb, and that we wore our tourist-ness like giant flowing capes whether we liked it or not. However, I can tell you that two women from London do not stick out in a bar in Tennessee nearly as much as four wealthy retirees from Bel Air.

Sarah and I were immediately seduced. The twinkly-eyed gent who looked like Liberace introduced them all (which was a total waste of time, as neither of us can remember any of their names, hence they are resigned to history simply as The Bluebird Four), and collectively they quizzed us on our trip, tossing admirations like dollar bills over our ‘braveness’ to undertake such a trip as ‘two women alone’. (It turned out both couples had been together since high school. The two lady Bluebirds had, Sarah and I judged, never done a day’s work in their lives.)

We were entranced by them: their perfectly manicured neatness, their eye-watering private-members’-club politeness, their unquestioning assurance that we didn’t mind being given the Spanish Inquisition by four complete strangers (we didn’t). It was the start of a beautiful friendship, of that I was certain. We would be invited to their Bel Air mansions for Christmas, we would be presented with Rolexes in little white boxes, we would be written into their Wills….

Then 12 minutes into the music, as the musicians strummed their compositions into the respectfully silent room, Liberace fell asleep, the other male Bluebird started composing a lengthy and tut-ridden email on his phone, Liberace’s wife looked down at the carpet with an inexplicable single tear rolling down her expensively creamed face, and Mrs Tutting Bluebird hissed loudly into the centre of the table ‘We’re leaving after this song.’ Two minutes later, during the enthusiastic applause, the Bluebird Four rose en masse like bored Royalty and bustled out of the room, without so much as a ‘We’ll pay for your flights at Christmas’.

Despite our unceremonious dumping, we had a wonderful evening of country music, beer and Nachos, and if any of the BlueBird Four are reading this: we’re still available to come to Bel Air this Christmas.

The next morning we took shelter from the rain in the Country Music Museum, which was extremely interesting, but perhaps not as interesting as the astoundingly rubbish stone effigies of notable musical figures in the Country Music Hall of Fame, not least of our mate Dolly:

Then we found Broadway.

On Nashville’s Broadway a West Side Story-style musical battle plays out: on one side of the street a row of bars flashes neon signs and shouts live music at the row of bars across the street, which retaliates by doing exactly the same. The result? The coolest, oddest, let’s-get-drunk-est cacophony of music you’ve ever heard. In each bar’s open window was a band playing various sub-genres of country music, and as we sloshed through the puddles (yes, it was still raining), one song from one bar would fade, have a brief tussle with the song from the next bar, then that song would be beaten down by the song from the next. It was brilliant.

As we walked past the bars that were brimming with the sort of frenzied energy that, in a normal boring city, doesn’t bubble up until about 10pm, we were acutely aware of the serious and unspoken dilemma that we were now facing: we would have to start drinking.

There are times in one’s life when one has to make a potentially life-saving decision. Here, at 12.30pm on a rainy Sunday in Nashville, on the coolest and most lively street in the Universe, we were faced with two choices:

1) Sprint straight into the nearest bar, tell each other we would only stay for a couple of beers and then have a sensible lunch, a lunch that would never materialise, and instead we would simply descend into a long afternoon of booziness that would inevitably result in one of us being sick in a drain by 5pm; or

2) Have a very slow and very big lunch that neither of us particularly wanted, but which would at least arm us against the onslaught of an afternoon of crapulous inevitability, and hope that it would be at least 8pm before one of us was sick in a drain.

We sensibly chose the latter, and feasted on ribs, pulled-pork baps, potato salad and macaroni cheese at Martin’s BBQ. This killed a good hour, after which we almost ran back to Broadway and tucked ourselves into the dim, purple-lit Robert’s Western World bar where we did what any sane human would do on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Nashville: drink beer and listen to country music.

Which we did with gusto and aplomb.

Here is a diagram of our afternoon in Nashville:

If you’d asked us at 7.30pm on that Sunday, as we slumped over the bar at Teqila Cowboy, what Nashville is like, you would have received this reply:

Hence why we called it a day (yes, I know it was only 7.30pm, but that’s just how we roll), demolished a Nathan’s hot dog from a street corner stall, got a cab back our hotel and collapsed in front of a true crime documentary until it was an acceptable time to pass out.

If you ask us now what Nashville is like, you will receive this reply: Nashville is pure, untamed fun. If you like country music, BBQ ribs, and a down-to-earth, no-frills, shoes-are-slightly-sticking-to-the-floor sort of time, it’s the best place ever. Especially on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

And especially when it turns out neither of you needed to be sick into a drain.

UP NEXT: blues, ducks, and the deserted city in Memphis.

 

 

Becky says things about … an American road trip PART 3: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

After an overnight stop in Athens, Georgia, we ploughed up through the green and red fields of rural Georgia under a crystal clear sky, briefly cutting through a thin slice of North Carolina, where we passed more churches than was surely practical. I immediately had a burning question for these churches:

WHERE DO YOUR CONGREGATIONS COME FROM?

Seriously. This is how the drive went:

Church. Church. Fields. McDonalds. House. Church. Gun outlet. McDonalds. Fields. Church. House. Church. Gun outlet. Fields. Church. Rifle range. Church. McDonalds. Church. House. Fields. Gun outlet. Church. Church. Fields. McDonalds. Church.

I can only imagine that their congregations are solely made up of gun-wielding McDonalds’ employees.

After an hour winding through the deep green veins of the Smokey Mountains, we emerged into the flat valley of Gatlinburg. I had imagined a quaint Swiss-style resort tucked humbly in the mountains, hanging baskets blooming from wooden chalets, the smell of mulled cider wafting on the fresh breeze  – the odd cow roaming pensively – instead, we got the Blackpool of Tennessee. Under the disapproving gaze of the hazy blue Smokies lay a bustling strip of arcades, amusements, hot dog and doughnut stalls, tacky bars, shops selling all the tat you could possibly wish for – and it was when I saw the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the movie memorabilia store that I wiped a tear from my eye. It was ruddy brilliant.

Upon walking through the door of the Airbnb office, the moustacheod cowboy behind the desk drawled ‘Ah, there y’are, Becky and Sarah,’ and when I asked how he knew it was us, he replied ‘Cos there ain’t no other soul comin’ my way today.’

Three minutes later we were back out the door with the key to our condo. This relaxed process was a far cry from the Spanish Inquisition we’d had checking in to the Daytona and Athens hotels, where we had been asked for ID, credit card, date of birth, known allergies, top ten favourite album covers, mother’s maiden, and favourite sexual position.

Our Airbnb was on the fifth floor of a condo complex (block of flats to us Brits), with a view from the balcony that was reasonably acceptable.

A couple of hours later we were sailing high above the mangle of shrubs and trees as a ski lift hoisted us up the mountain, our bare feet dangling in the hot air, our knuckles whitening and our colons twitching at the beautiful yet almost-certain-death below us.

At the top of the mountain, bathed in the red evening sun, was an Alpine Disneyland: a toytown of chalet-style shops, a bar, and a complex of rope bridges clutching the tree trunks of the mountainside. All accompanied by some yodelling. When one finds oneself in a mountaintop toytown, the only thing to do is to have a pint of incredibly strong local ale and go for a stroll on the perilously high treetop walk. This we did with the alacrity of a couple of slightly tipsy mountain goats.

The next morning, we felt we should do A Walk as that’s what people do when they’re in the mountains, so we drove into the darkening, tangled heart of the Smokies to do A Walk to Grotto Falls.

At the entrance to The Walk was a sign telling us that at any one time there would be 37,000 bears watching us, and if we should come face to face with one we should firstly try this:

And if Mr Bear took umbrage to that, and if we were still alive, we should secondly try this:

That was the long and short of it, anyway.

Fortunately we didn’t get to practice our bear-survival skills, and made it to the extremely pretty waterfall with merely a few splodges of bear poo on the soles of our trainers.


Are you a die-hard supporter of the 45th president of the United States? Do you live in the Gatlinburg area? Do you enjoy a statement t-shirt? Then it’s your lucky day!

Bizarrely, neither Sarah nor I fancied any of these jolly t-shirts, but we DID fancy the movie memorabilia store, where we spent probably the happiest 20 minutes of my life.

After a hard day of not seeing any bears and avoiding being gunned down by Tennesseans as we took photos of us giving Trump t-shirts the finger, we spent the evening on our balcony playing cards (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cards – thank you, movie memorabilia store) and drinking wine, which was a delightful way to spend an evening until a bug flew into my nose and I threw my wine in Sarah’s face in shock.

Question: what do you do if you’re staying six miles from a Dolly Parton-themed theme park called Dollywood?

Answer: go to Dollywood.

It.

Was.

Brilliant.

For three solid hours we were flung about on some of the best roller coasters I’ve ever been on, and I became intimately acquainted with Sarah’s vocal chords.

In the gift shop – a veritable shrine to Dolly Parton, her plastic face beaming from every item – I had the following illuminating conversation with the pink-capped girl at the checkout:

Then came Funnel Cake-gate.

A Funnel Cake is America’s way of making a doughnut even more lethal to your arteries. Instead of a single lump of batter plopped into the fryer, the batter is piped into the hot fat so it creates an intricate nest, thereby increasing the surface area of available fat-soaked dough by approximately 23,000 times. It is then doused in icing sugar.

We demolished this arterial onslaught in around eight minutes (theme parks are hungry work) and experienced a brief moment of sugar-induced elation, during which we planned every detail of our campaign to be the first female presidential duo of the United States, and then, as though draining through the bottom of a bucket, our blood sugar levels succumbed to the greatest sugar and adrenaline crash in the history of the universe.

It was all I could do to drive us back through the mountains and crawl into a late afternoon coma. The lesson? Roller coasters + funnel cake = absolutely nothing. Forget it. You’re finished.

Conclusion: Gatlinburg is F.U.NAnd if you’re a Trump-supporting, church-going, gun-toting, bear-fighting, Funnel Cake-loving adrenaline junkie, then you should definitely go.

UP NEXT: Rain, country music, and another booze-filled afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee. 

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!

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.

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?

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

Becky says things about … stand-up sunbeds

What’s that you say? ‘Becky, surely you can’t have anything to say about stand-up sunbeds’?

Well, O doubting Listener, I do.

Here in England, Mr Sun, after a long and frankly evil period of absence, has finally decided to show his face, and much like the rest of the pasty, sallow English species, I panicked when I realised that I will soon be required to exhibit flesh in public.

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So there was nothing for it but to pay a visit to a sunbed.

Except that when I go on the lie-down sunbeds – which really isn’t that often – I get a burnt bum. I mean a seriously burnt bum. Traffic cones will melt if I stand too close to them.

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So to avoid this potential plastic-melting hazard (because one must consider every eventuality), I opted instead for a stand-up one.

For those of you who have not been in a stand-up sunbed, it is like walking into a toilet cubicle on a spaceship in which someone has left the heating on for many hours. It has flashing buttons and neon lights and big heavy doors that should make a vvvvvvt noise when they close, as all spaceship doors do.

For those of you who have been in a stand-up sunbed – you just, kind of….

stand….

Don’t you?

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They’re just a bit awkward, aren’t they? I mean you really do just

stand.

Naked, blasted with ultra-violet rays, wearing tiny black goggles, in a confined space.

It’s all a bit strange, really. I thought to myself ‘Well…… here we are then…’ And then thought of nothing, because there is literally nothing else to do or think.

Then I decided to pass the 10 minutes by doing some squats. You know, get a tan, tone my bum, multi-tasking like a pro. So I sank into the first squat, burnt my bum on the ultra-violet wall behind me, cursed, and stood up again. That was the end of the squatting debacle.

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So then I thought that, despite the lack of music, I’d try a little dance. Anything to avoid just

standing.

So I performed a jazzy cavort that involved one very small side-step. Then a very small side-step back again. And so on, for about nine seconds, until I felt embarrassed in front of myself and stopped.

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So after that I was back to just

standing.

But then seeing as I was naked, I thought I’d pass some time by fiddling with myself. No not like thatyou foul beast. There’s a time and place for everything, and those silly goggles do not put you in a sexy mood. I mean just … you know … fiddling. I played with my elbow skin for a bit. That was fun. Then I prodded my stomach. Then I gauged whether I could be suspended by a hook through my love handle in a Saw-like torture method, and decided that I definitely could, which was a bit of a bummer.

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Then when I’d run out of bits of prod, poke and pull, I was forced to just

stand.

After about 30 seconds of

standing

I thought I’d be a daring ninja-type-James Bond-tough-guy and flip my goggles off my eyes to see just how bright it really is in there.

I performed said goggle-flipping manoeuvre . And I’ll tell you just how bright it is in there. It is ****ing bright.

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After causing myself permanent ocular damage, adding ‘Being suspended from a hook by my love handle’ to my list of Things To Worry About, embarrassing myself in front of myself with scanty dance moves, and searing my posterior, I decided to play it safe and wait out the last few minutes by just

standing

while my skin slowly crisped.

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I prefer the lying-down ones.