Okay, the title is supposed to be sarcastic. The summer of 2015 here in Britain has been yet another washout. Almost the entirety of July and August (which has coincided nicely with the schools summer holidays – as per usual) has been wet or wishy-washy. As it has been for the last nine years. I know this for a fact because my second daughter was born in July nine years ago and for at least a month in 2006 I feared my new born baby would die of dehydration or heat exhaustion. But since then, not so much.
I’m writing this whilst on holiday in the Isle of Wight – a small island off the South coast of Britain (for my foreign friends). And even though we’re in August, the majority of the week we’ve had rain. The British summertime cares nothing for convention. We leave for home today (I’m just catching the ferry as we speak); yesterday and this morning were really the only sunny days we’ve experienced. It’s okay, I’m a professional English woman – I came prepared. You can’t let the weather spoil your holiday in the UK so I arrived armed with my trusty raincoat and waterproof cross walking shoes and an umbrella. I’ve used them almost every day but for the last two days. And thank God, my husband decided to rent us a caravan rather than plump for his usual beloved camping. If he hadn’t, our tent may well have been blown away by 40 mile an hour winds and diagonal-driving rain. Seriously.
If you want a guaranteed hot beach holiday, don’t vacation in the UK – that’s what I’d advise. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a great time; we worked around the weather and toured the island, seeing all its sights and treasures; Osbourne House (Queen Victoria’s holiday home), Carisbrook Castle and The Needles (an impressive set of chalk cliffs). But have I put on a vest and pair of shorts and built myself a full-body biscuit-coloured tan? I have not. Mind you, we’ve holidayed in southern Spain and still managed to coincide with a week of rain. I think it might just be something to do with us.
Yesterday we walked along the beach from Sandown to Shanklin and back (two hours), played an eighteen hole round of crazy-golf (I came last but then I didn’t cheat and stamp my feet whenever I didn’t score a par two. Honesty gets you nowhere). I seem to have earned the role of family pack-horse. Why am I the only person who carries a bag? Why? And why does that necessitate that I must carry the entire family’s crap whilst they can roam free, skipping along unencumbered by baggage; ‘tra-lee-la!’ It reminds me of my student days when I would invariably bring along a bag or coat for a night out with the girls and would end up carrying everyone else’s fags and keys. Unfair! It was unfair then and it remains unfair now!
Sandown is a rather dilapidated seaside town. The hotels have seen better days; white paint peeling off the seafront hotel walls, their signage lettering missing in places. And the pier? Oh dear God, that looks as though it dates back from the seventies. Shanklin on the other hand, appears rather more salubrious with its prettily painted beach-huts and well maintained crazy-golf courses.The remainder of the day was spent on rather a windy Sandown beach. The other holiday-makers (and my daughter) sportingly wearing bikinis and beach-shorts. But they were all quite wrong. With the strong gusts blowing in from the sea, it was clearly cardigan weather. And even then I was cold. There seemed to be an ageing mod/scooter convention going on; old men sporting their Fred Perry shirts, braces and Doc Martin’s. I listened to the near-constant sound of their Lambrettas and Vespas driving up and down the seafront.
After packing up the caravan, we spent the morning catching crabs with hunks of disgusting-smelling mackerel off the pier in Yarmouth. Eight crabs found their way into our bucket but were all thrown back into the sea. Then it was a quick rush around Yarmouth castle before hotfooting it back to the Ferry at Cowes.
So today we leave – the arduous task of packing up our belongings is done (the car boot is far fuller on the way home than it was on the way out). We are catching the Red Funnel ferry home to the mainland. The weather hasn’t been especially kind to us, but I still maintain that the British holiday is a great experience; we live in a beautiful, diverse and green Isle – because it rains all the frigging time. The main thing is, we’ve spent quality time together as a family which really only happens for any length of time twice a year (our family holiday or Christmas). And that’s what holidays are all about – being together. The sun would just be an added bonus. But I’m English, so I don’t expect miracles.
NB: I wrote this entirely on a mobile phone so if the layout is crap and there are spelling mistakes, blame the phone. Oh, and the Isle of Wight has possibly the worst internet coverage I have ever encountered so uploading this post has been a pig of a job. The lengths I go to for you…