The British summer, or the idea of a summer, begins in earnest when The Royal Ascot race meeting ends and Wimbledon begins. We shuffle to Henley, we don shorts and skirts and attack London’s sumptuous parks, while and our noses become as red as a beautifully cooked Canadian lobster; and the late evening sun seems to last forever.
In this busy and selfish urban lifestyle it is far too easy to deny oneself new opportunities; I decided this summer to become a “Yes Man” and accept every available invitation, many of which have been outside of my inimitable Wren-designed city. Yes, I gaze longingly back but even I cannot deny the simple pastoral joy at seeing a vast field of canary yellow rapeseed or humble country pub hidden to its side
Summer does have its pitfalls for an unlucky few. I have established my deep love of hot weather and the rolling bucolic hills of England. But they unfortunately combine to become my Achilles heel in the form of that old scoundrel hay fever.
I first fell victim on a croquet lawn in Bedfordshire nearly twenty years ago on a sweltering day in June and since then the pollinating months have never been the same.
Unlike some, for whom hay fever is only one of many allergies, I have – apart from a very slight allergy to spring onions – no other aversions so to speak of.
I’m able to gorge on shellfish by the bucket load, roll around with dogs and cats, and be stung by a thousand bees carrying peanuts and come up smiling. However put the smallest stamen of the prettiest flower near me and my face feels as if I have assaulted by Lennox Lewis, my red eyes constantly need to be rubbed, and my nose is relentlessly running.
No class of human being is immune – one can be the biggest manliest rugby-playing Goliath, but if they are allergic to pollen they will be felled by hay fever. All men are reduced to testosterone levels of a snivelling nine stone weakling. I often have to scuttle inside when I would rather be lazing in the sunshine.
The most peculiar aspect for me is that in the winter I’m usually exempt from the glut of snivels and man flu on show. Yet in the summer I permanently have a hankie on my person – my sneezing attacks reserving themselves for the most claustrophobic places. A lift or a drinks party are always worrying but the throng of a tube is worst of all….other passengers believing you to have a hybrid of SARS and the bubonic plague.
Like the geekiest schoolboy I sit in the corner like a leper incongruously shivering whilst golden sun rays ripple through the windows, with the carriage’s revulsion stemming from a belief that it’s the result of poor conditioning.
Sniffling continuously we reach for some sort of remedy…I take an antihistamine and use eye drops, though thankfully not the scandalously emasculating nose spray! There are also the tales of yore that suggest a cold shower or camomile tea may help. Apart from the recommended medicines I rather like the sound of the more eccentric methods; being flayed with dried lavender or to drink chartreuse
Cricket is my summer time joy; however playing or watching is rather like rolling around in raw meat and strolling into a lion’s cage. I am not alone in this – Sir.Ian Botham and Phil ‘the cat’ Tuffnel are two famous sufferers – though these two may have gained their nasally deep voices and bleary red eyes from the extra-curricular activities of the prior night. With these two lions in my head I am donning my whites, with a red hanckie stuffed in, for tonight’s t20 match for my cricket club, The Weasels, with baited breath.
Like all of life’s actors I love to show off and though I protest of the agonies there is still a part of me that revels in the drama. I hope this evening’s game brings along a cacophony of sneezes when I’m on strike, to which I will of course ham up to seduce the laughter.