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Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Sure, it’s a clichéd title, but it’s the most appropriate for what I wish to discuss; namely, the bizarre British habit of sun worshipping.

It’s the beginning of the Great British Summer (lasts for exactly one weeks and reverts back to The Great British Monsoon and stays that way for an undetermined time) which means the sun worshipping has begun. The second there’s the slightest bit of sunshine, people strip down and parade around in parks desperate to be blessed by the mighty hydrogen-based god.

Now, everyone enjoys a nice sunny day, that’s not the dispute here. I spent much of my last day off sitting with my laptop in the garden working on my novel, partly because sitting all day in room with a computer and no air conditioning with this weather is a good way to prepare yourself for any waiting cannibals expecting a barbecue.

The thing that makes the British love of the sun so truly bizarre is how obsessed we are with it. People will stand out in shorts and t-shirts (or less!) at the mere sight of the sun, even if it’s accompanied with a bitingly cold wind. Within 15 minutes of the sun’s appearance, parks are suddenly full, and woe betide anyone who works within a park-based organisation. And what’s more, it makes the general British public slightly crazy, which is why the clichéd title is so apt.

The reason I mention working for a park-based organisation is because my day job is just that. I’m not going into specifics, just letting you know that my confusion on the matter is only enhanced by working in such a job. Among the sun-induced bizarre behaviour I’ve encountered was someone ordering cheese. Not extra cheese on something, or requesting to have cheese put on something that doesn’t currently have cheese. They just wanted cheese, in a bowl, on its own. To eat.

Cheese. Why?

What baffles me most about this behaviour is that despite sharing a race and nationality with these members of the public, I have no similar inclinations. Oh, I love it when the weather’s like this, and driving in it makes me want to roll the windows down and subject the world to some Shibuya-kei or geek rock about zombies, but this is the extent of it (I want to expose the world to these things generally, so it’s not that unusual!). I don’t feel the urge to immediately hit the park in this weather, nor do I get a sudden craving for unaccompanied cheese.

It’s actually pretty fascinating. I’m sure someone could do some kind of psycho-social analysis of all this bizarre summer behaviour, and in fact, someone probably has. I understand the sheer, unbridled joy accompanying the arrival of the sun in Britain. It’s so rare you may as well be waiting for the second coming of Jesus. But to some people, it actually is the second coming of Jesus, an event to mark off on the calendar as the historical moment that the sun came out. All clothes must be shed in worship, and you must live entirely off a diet of ice cream and beer to appease the mighty orb.

Does this phenomenon exist anywhere else?

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