As much of theUKenjoys heat wave temperatures to rival its European neighbours, Brits will be hoping it marks the start of a long hot summer because the Brits attitude to the summer has undergone a revolution in recent years - thanks largely to the recession and the television.
Not too long ago the phrase ‘British Summer’ was an oxymoron as the Great British weather, working practices and a Puritan protestant tradition conspired to make most Brits pretty miserable on their weeks holiday. Most manual workers were restricted to one week holiday during the ‘industrial fortnight’ when factories and their associated suppliers closed down. This also affected many administration and middle management staff. This was the Golden Age of the British Seaside that saw iconic locations such as Blackpool in theNorth West, Rhyl inNorth Walesand Southend on the English east coast flourish as they became the go-to locations for that precious one week off.
Much has changed but it has taken perhaps two decades for a real change in lifestyle and attitude in theUK– that Protestant Ethic is deep rooted and not all the change has been positive. The industrial fortnight is, like British manufacturing, largely a thing of the past and workers from all classes now get to choose their own week – or more likely fortnight. One aspect that remains unchanged is that parents are restricted to taking kids on holiday only during official school holidays and the past year has seen a rise in Local Education Authorities suing parents who have taken their kids out of school for a holiday. Parents complain of sky-high holiday costs during the ‘six week holiday’ as it is known in the UK; schools complain of disruption to learning and exams if parents continue to feel free to pull their kids out of school simply to take advantages of low prices.
A key factor in Brit’s changing attitude to the summer was their flight to foreign holidays. The package holiday that started in the 1970s saw Brits ‘enjoy’ holidays inSpainespecially, and lower transport costs and increased spending power has seen the Brits view the whole world as a potential holiday location – some even visitUSA! But the freedom to travel bought a license to indulge for many and there still remains an ongoing national embarrassment about young Brits who binge on drink and sex abroad. They have even re-imported this habit, and the summer will see an increase in drink-related accidents and arrests in cities throughout theUK.
The next step in theUK’s change in attitude to the summer has happened as a result of the economic downturn in 2007. Reduced spending saw the rise of the ‘staycation’ as Brits saved money and holidayed at home instead of abroad. The habit has stuck even as the economy grows. A recent survey suggested domestic tourism could give theUK’s economy a £15bn boost in 2014, as the number of Britons taking a holiday at home has more than doubled in three years. The staycation meant that Brits saw the summer as an almost continuous holiday period. Families could spend a week in one place, a weekend somewhere else and a long weekend in yet another location – although no longer in those traditional seaside resorts which remain in terminal decline. So the second aspect of this revolution was to see the summer as a background to a long period of holidaying. The industrial fortnight was dead, long live the staycation summer!
Other aspects of the revolution have been inspired by television. It will come as no surprise that Brits love their ‘property porn’ tv programmes. Their TV channels are awash with programmes about people moving house or improving house. These have led to a revolution in their attitude to interior design and one off-shoot has been to see the garden viewed as an extension to the living space. Gardens of all shapes and sizes are looking better than ever using smart garden furniture and ornaments that make them look more like lounges than lawns and have encouraged Brits to spend much more time outdoors.
And the final piece of the jigsaw is also due largely to the power of television. Brits have joined the BBQ revolution in a big way but as the British BBQ Society (I kid you not) says on its website:
"The mainstream barbecue culture in Britain has been far from prestigious. In other parts of the world, barbecue is synonymous with great food eaten in a great atmosphere, whether we’re talking Aussie barbies, South African Braais or American pits, BBQ food is revered around the world."
The BBBQ society is dedicated making that true of theUKas much as the rest of the world and they can look to the support of some of theUK’s top TV chefs who are increasingly taking BBQ food seriously. No one can say that the days of burned low grade sausages are over, but it appears that the quality of BBQs throughout the land is on the up!
At long last it looks as if the Brits have learned to love the summer.