Sunday, April 29, 2007

Colonel Moseley on the Joys of Summer

What ho! After Countdown today, I was reflecting on the summer ahead and how hard it is now to distinguish between the seasons. Mild wet winters merge into hot dry summers, interspersed with sporadic alarming extremes including high winds.

As well as orderly and predictable weather, seasonal events seem to be a thing of the past too. In the High Street, if there is such a thing now, sales happen all the time and aren’t confined to January or mid-summer. Holidays are taken throughout the year, especially during the myriad of half terms, not just two weeks at the beginning of August.

In place of these landmarks on the calendar, the only fixed points in the year now seem to be the monoliths of celebrity and reality TV. The summer is dominated by thirteen weeks of Big Brother, the autumn is the X Factor, the winter sees Ant and Dec flying off to Australia for I’m Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and the Celebrity Big Brother and the springs means Dancing on Ice. I guess they may be our modern fertility rituals marking the passage of time and placating the gods of “OK” and “Hello”.

Anyway, enough ironic social observation: in no particular order, the constants that seem to feature every summer are:

Sporting disappointment: most years our summer is punctuated by the punctured dreams of the great British public. Last year it was the anti-climax of the World Cup. Previously we have underachieved in everything from the Olympics to the Davis Cup. Annually we have the traumas of Test cricket and trials of our tennis players in SW16, alleviated tantalisingly by occasional brilliance. When, once every so often, it does go right and we win the Ashes or Rugby World Cup, the whole country is lifted sufficiently to face the gloom for the next few years.

Queues at airports: Industrial action by French air traffic controllers or baggage handlers, security scares, inclement weather or just sheer volume of traffic all conspire to ensure the holiday has a miserable delayed start and uncomfortable finish.

Silly season stories: with Parliament in recess and our rulers in Tuscany or in Cliff Richard’s mansion, there’s not much to spin and the newspapers are left to dig up stories about the golden weddings of large groups of siblings, musical animals and rudely shaped vegetables.

Extremes of weather: with drought, floods, whirlwinds and lightning, our summer weather seems to grow more biblical every year

Big Brother: sadly, forget dear Johnners on Radio Three from Lords or Dan Maskell’s “Oh, I says” from Wimbledon; the sound of summer is now the theme music from Big Brother and that booming Geordie voice reminding us that “You decide…” The producers decide a lot, but that’s another story.

The Edinburgh Festival: in August a good proportion of our arts commentators disappear up to Edinburgh and report on the festival. They obviously enjoy the trip, meeting old friends and having some excellent dinners on expenses. Hordes of foreign tourists are attracted. The trouble is that it happens in Scotland. Also, even for someone with a good general interest in the arts, much of the programme isn’t that relevant and the coverage is surprisingly dreary. It’s a jolly for the media types and a shame they don’t just keep it to themselves: end of.

The Birthday Honours List: leaving aside issues under police investigation, as each year passes the Honours List seems to become more laughable and discredited with minor gongs for weather girls and ageing footballers and knighthoods for various luvvies and the odd captain of industry who has kept his nose clean. It gets more tawdry with every passing year

The Proms: despite the populist ending and the TV relay to the masses in various parks, I still find that the Proms cater mainly for the musical establishment. If they have a mission to bring the joy of music to a wider audience, why not broaden the repertoire even further to include even more diversity with much more popular and modern material? With ingenuity, this need not mean dumbing down. Why not focus even more on entertainment and accessibility?

Plagues: we have endured Old Testament quantities of house flies, ladybirds, crane-flies, wasps and sand from the Sahara. Maybe it’s to stop us getting complacent.

Exam results: I’m not going to rant about standards and exams getting easier: good luck and congrats to all who pass. I am, however, very bored with the clichéd ritual of the staged outside broadcasts where four or five nervous students open their results live on air on breakfast or local TV and are simply thrilled.

It’s enough to make you look forward to the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but with global warming that may soon be in February. Pip, pip!!

* a version of this piece appeared in Birmingham 13

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