Where were you last August bank holiday, when the heavens opened? I ask because a number of people have told me their tales of woe over the last couple of weeks, as this year’s all-but-inevitable annual washout approached. It sticks in the mind, a particularly devastating downpour over the last three-day weekend of the year.
We happened to be at a wedding which, after a summer of blistering heat, the bride and groom had quite reasonably assumed would find us all dripping with sweat, not rain. Cue a sodden marquee (no heaters because, hello, heatwave), flooded electrics meaning the band couldn’t play, and a hog roast that was moist for all the wrong reasons.
Everyone had a rip-roaring time – nothing a few whiskies and a mouthful of hot crackling couldn’t solve. But when it came to planning this year’s August bank holiday weekend we thought, well, why bother?
That’s how I find myself now, stuck at home for three days, on what the tabloids are calling a “dangerously hot scorcher”. Which sounds like heaven to me, sun-worshipper that I am.
For a Londoner, I’m one of the lucky ones. I do possess a patch of grass which is only overlooked by four houses at the back, two to the sides, and a block of flats across the road. But, nonetheless, I have what can only be described as Bank Holiday Fomo (BHF) – the fear of missing out.
Is there anything more stressful than a bank holiday at home? Numerous academic studies have pointed to the post-bank holiday blues – the gloomy prospect of no further breaks until Christmas and the arrival of shorter days. But not nearly enough is said about the blind-panic induced by the 72-hour stretch itself.
There is huge pressure to “make the most” of it. Which is madness when, most weekends, you feel like you’ve achieved if you manage to water the courgettes.
I sit writing this on Friday morning and the recriminations have already begun. What shall we do? Why didn’t we organise anything? No, YOU turned down that lunch invitation and I know we don’t like their children, but surely anything is better than nothing?
My husband, and I’m not making this up, has just messaged me to ask whether we should have a barbecue on Sunday and invite some friends over.
We both know the truth: there are no friends. Only a flood of Whatsapp messages saying things like “Would love to, but we’re eating oysters in Whitstable. Winky face.”
Anyone with half a brain has already fled town to “beat the traffic”. I just had to fight my way into the office through hordes of teenagers, high off their GCSE results and boarding coaches for Reading and Leeds festivals. Their heady sense of freedom – and that of their parents, childfree for the long weekend – only rubs it in, as you sit at home wondering whether this might not, after all, be the moment to creosote the fence or chuck everything out of your wardrobe into bin bags.
If they’re not at a festival, it seems as though everyone you know is “glamping in deepest Suffolk” and sharing photos of bell tents on Instagram. I wonder how long it will be before their phones start to run out of battery...
It’s easy to spiral as you try to claw back the extra day. Let’s just drop everything and go to the coast? Except, oh, the fishermen’s huts all seem to be fully booked. It’s almost as everyone but you knew this was happening in advance. Is there a National Trust property we can go to nearby? Help.
You could hurl yourself into an outdoor swimming pool – but during the July mini-heatwave both Brockwell and Beckenham Lidos were forced to close due to overcrowding and safety concerns. You could try a rooftop or pub garden, but it’s standing room only. In the shade. Next to the loo.
Such is the grip that BHF has over me that I seem to have just panic-agreed to go to the football with my husband on Saturday afternoon. I’m going to have to draw the line at wearing Watford’s polyester, mostly black, shirt.
So, commiserations if you’re currently stuck in traffic with the windows wound down, waiting for a delayed flight, or sharing a postage stamp-sized patch of beach with ten thousand others (don’t forget the suncream). But staying at home on a sunny bank holiday is actually the hardest thing of all.
Now, where did I put the black bags?