Summer's here...

There are a lot of things that the British associate with the start of summer. The Wimbledon tennis tournament, strawberries and cream, music festivals, hay fever, deckchairs, picnics in the park, ice cream, barbecues, sunburn and, of course, rain.

Every year we hope for the same thing - that this summer is going to be an absolute scorcher! Not like last year's total washout. More often than not, we feel like it's the latter of the two. The reality of course is that in Britain we get both. A typical English summer starts with a week of sunshine followed by a week of rain followed by a bit of cold weather and then another week of rain. All the while, the great British public wait anxiously, checking the weather forecast religiously to find out when the next period of hot, sunny weather will be. June merges into July and then into August and then before you know it, it's September and we all start hoping for an Indian Summer. And then it's gone again and all we've got to look forward to is a long, wet autumn before we all start checking the weather forecast again to see if it'll snow at Christmas.

The truth is, when we do have nice weather, London is a great place to be.  The whole city buzzes with excitement as everyone heads down to the park to play games and have a picnic or go swimming in the famous lidos or the outdoor pools in Hampstead. Because nice, sunny weather isn't common in the UK, the British appreciate it much more than those of you who come from, say, a Mediterranean country. We're just not used to the sun, and so we try to make the most of it by staying out all day letting our white, pale skin turn a lovely shade of pink or red before going to the nearest beer garden for an ice-cold drink. The next time a British person says "Isn't it a lovely day?" when for you it is nothing special, remember that it's because they're excited and genuinely happy that the sun is shining. You should smile politely and say "Yes it's beautiful out there".

It isn't all good though. The parks get very busy, and then of course you start sneezing a coughing because of the pollen in the trees and flowers. Due to a lack of facilities, London isn't very-well prepared for hot weather. For example, taking a tube in summer is a bit like getting into a sauna, fully-dressed, with 100 people you don't know very well and standing as close to them as possible with your face in their armpit. The busses aren't much better and people generally try to avoid work and travel as little as possible.

For us teachers, summer is the busiest time of the year as half of Europe seems to come through the school doors, only to leave a week or two later. It's a great opportunity for you to meet a lot of interesting people in a very short time and to join the English in the park (or the beer garden of course). All in all, it's my favourite time of the year and one of the most fun times to learn English.

Bear in mind though, that coming to London in summer can be a lottery. You may be here for a week when the sun shines every day, or you may be unfortunate enough to see nothing but grey sky and rain from Monday to Friday. In class, I often ask my students what they think about the weather. Some say "Oh the weather in London is wonderful" whereas others say "It's freezing!" Whatever their answer, I always smile as it just depends on which week you happen to be in London - a hot week or a wet week! We just never know what is going to happen, and that's why we love the British summer. As the American writer Russell Baker said, "Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."


  • hay fever - (n.) a seasonal medical condition like a bad cold which is caused by pollen
  • deckchair - (n.) a folding chair with a long sheet of cloth often used in public parks, beach or on ships
  • absolute scorcher - (adj.+n.) a period of very hot, sunny weather
  • total washout - (adj.+n.) a period of very wet, rainy weather
  • the latter - (n.) the second of two things just mentioned
  • to wait anxiously - (v.+adv.) to feel worried or nervous about something you hope or expect will arrive
  • to check religiously - (v.+adv.) to check something very often
  • Indian summer - (adj.+n.) a period of nice, often unexpected, weather at the end of summer
  • to buzz with excitement - (fixed expression) a lot of activity and excitement within a group of people or place
  • to head down to - (phr. v.) to go towards
  • lido - (n.) an outdoor swimming pool with an area for sunbathing
  • to make the most of something - (fixed expression) to get as much use or enjoyment as possible out of something
  • beer garden - (n.) an area with seats outside a pub
  • to be genuinely happy - (adv.+adj.) to feel very happy
  • pollen - (n.) a fine powder produced by flowers which is carried by the wind or by insects to other flowers making them produce seeds
  • lack - (n.) where there is not enough of something
  • all in all - (fixed expression) used to show that you are considering every part of a situation
  • to bear in mind - (fixed expression) to remember a fact or a piece of information that is important or could be useful in the future


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