Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Sunday, 22 March 2009

Here Comes The Sun

Today was the first day of spring.

I know this, because when I accidentally cut up a Volvo in my Focus* the driver smiled and waved at me instead of sticking up a finger that would make his mum smack him. I also know this because the population of Welwyn Garden City increased ten fold in the space of an hour: it was like spreading honey on the pavement and watching the ants gather. And everyone - and I mean everyone, including the kid who hangs out under the bench near MacDonalds - was smiling. In a good, happy kind of way, and not in a 'I'm going to nick your purse' kind of way.

We Brits are not known for our sunny tempers. We're known for our acerbic wit, our dislike of people who stand on the wrong side of the escalators and our ability/desire to drink ten pints on a Friday or Saturday night even if we don't like beer. We pride ourselves on it. This, we say rather smugly, is part of our culture. We have castles, don't you know, we remind the Americans: Shakespeare came from here, we remind the Australians. We are allowed - nay, we are required - to be a little bit standoffish and mean. We're expected to be distinctly unimpressed by life. It's what we do. It's what our country has been built on: grumpiness and apathy in the face of even the most enthusiastic happiness.

Is it? Is it really a culture thing, or is it just a weather thing? Today, Welwyn Garden City turned into Barcelona. People were smiling at random clouds for no reason; they were smoking, when they don't normally smoke; they were buying coffees and sitting on the damp kerbs just because they could. Give it another couple of months - give us a few more degrees - and we'll turn into LA: people will be roller-skating in shorts, taking their bone-lazy dogs for walks all of a sudden and congratulating each other on the white marks where their watches used to be. It's not culture at all, I would hazard a guess. In fact, if Shakespeare wasn't a Brit, I severely doubt that he would have written King Lear or Othello at all: he would have cheered up and written Much Ado About Nothing 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, like Rocky.

The sunshine does wonderful things to people. My dad and I popped out into the garden for a quick cup of tea this morning, and sat listening to the peace and quiet and feeling the sun on our cheeks. The wood-pigeons cooed, the starlings chattered, the squirrels bounced around the grass, and the cat - incoherent with happiness that we were finally on her territory rather than the other way round - made it very clear that she couldn't be more pleased by meuwing loudly every couple of seconds.

"This peace and quiet is bloody noisy, isn't it," my dad remarked after a couple of minutes. "I'm going back inside: my head is starting to hurt."

It isn't, of course, the beginning of summer. There never really is a real beginning of summer in England. Everyone kind of puts the flat of their hands out now and then and says "It's... it's sun... it's.... it might be sum... No. It's gone. Forget it." But, my God, when the sun comes and stays for more than a few minutes, we are delightful. We are the happiest, sunniest people in the world. The happiest, sunniest people, who just happen to be afflicted with fog, rain, cold, snow and grey skies for nine or ten months of the year.

Personally, I can appreciate the best of both worlds. I love the sunshine and the smiles, but I'm also very fond of the acerbic comments and the "why don't you just f*** off" when you accidentally splash a stranger in the local swimming pool. It's diverse, you see. It's edgy. You never know where you are with the Brits, and that's what makes us so much fun.

As for me, I didn't just escape a near-crash unscathed and unsworn at, but - in all my sunny optimism - I also managed to parallel park my car first time round as well.

Frankly, one can only imagine what other joys this summer has in store for me. I might even master the three-point-turn.

* It's not 'my' car. It's my dad's. Just as my favourite shoes are not 'my' shoes: they belong to my friend, and she thinks I lost them. It's all about the way you tell it, you see.