Summer shades of Simon Dee

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
What we do in the summer" read the headline on the primary school's work board, and, as you do, I paused to consider my own summer activities. For teachers, the summer break is often the time when we can indulge the fantasies of what we might have been had we not received the call to be teachers. Dedicated gardeners, golfers, mountaineers, writers and painters all blossom in the July sunshine.

However, it's the small details of our summer behaviour that give most cause for concern. Even in our childhood, the first rays of heat and "Phew what a scorcher" headlines had a strange effect. We sang along to Beach Boys records that were based on a surfing culture, even though none of us had been any closer to California than Torquay.

And, if it wasn't surf music, then we were in the grip of some strange compunction to buy such bizarre summer hits as Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime", Gary Puckett's "Young Girl", the Mixtures' "Pushbike Song" and that apotheosis of bubblegum, "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by the Ohio Express.

We were summer crazed in our fashions too, wearing those small, oblong Roger McGuinn sunglasses that, being tiny and perched on the end of our noses, were basically useless. It's only recently that summer clothes bore any relation to style, having previously been confined to football shorts and Rab C Nesbitt vests.

As adults, we've continued the game. Influenced by Australian soaps, no doubt, we feel compelled to eat out of doors at "barbies" - a surefire recipe for e-coli poisoning or rain, or, frequently, both.

We drink dehydrating alcohol, sitting in beer gardens in the heat of the midday sun, and then wonder why we fall asleep before the opening bars of Reporting Scotland. For our summer holidays, we go Le Camping in France, carrying vast amounts of unnecessary gear, and then watch in amazement as our German opposite, who is on site for a whole month, packs away three mountain bikes and all his luggage in the bootspace of a Peugeot 205.

We do all of this because, like the Beach Boys of our youthful summers, we have to play at it, because, as creatures of the northern hemisphere, the whole concept of enjoying ourselves outdoors in good weather is alien. This is why we sit freezing in windswept football stadiums, why the Irish call driving rain "soft weather" and why we have taken to standing on ice till numb and institutionalised it as curling.

We copy our summer behaviour from the sun-drenched cultures of America, Australia and southern Europe, and sometimes we're not sure where the influence has come from.

Only last week, in blinding sunlight, as I jumped into my car, opened the sunroof and windows and flicked on the stereo while adjusting my sunglasses, I had a feeling it was all a bit familiar. With a sinking feeling, recognition dawned: it was the opening sequence of 1968's Simon Dee Show, and we all know what happened to Simon Dee, don't we?

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