The sudden arrival of The Great British Nip heralding the end of our (non)summer | Jack Marshall's column
Across the country, countless adults are currently locked in a conversation which arrives this time of year like a creeping sweep of migrating birds. It starts with the end of the summer holidays and swiftly moves through a checklist we feel in our very bones.
“When do the kids go back?” A pause. “Next week.” “That’s come round quick.” Never in the history of Britain has there been a pleasantly drawn-out six-week break. “Well, we haven’t really had much of a summer, have we?”
No, we haven’t. “Weather’s been terrible.” “Awful. Temperature’s definitely dropped; I was chilly last night.” There it is - the first sighting of the Great Autumnal Arrival heralded by 11°C. “Were you tempted to put the heating on?”
A test. The correct date for the central heating to once again become acceptable is of great concern to us Brits. “I was tempted to put the heating on.” Tempted, but not *quite* yet. Soon. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Bit of a nip in the air.”
The nip. Not seen since early May, you feel it one morning. I felt it last week - suddenly, being outside in a t-shirt with a cuppa at 8am is too much. Nippy. And summer isn’t nippy. The awful summer we’ve just had was humid and damp. Claggy, even. But never nippy.
“Nights are drawing in, aren’t they?” “Yeah, I was thinking that the other night when it was getting dark at 7.30pm.” One day, those airy summer nights where the sun lingers suddenly become gloomy without warning.
The exact date is impossible to predict. You just have to wait for it but, when it comes, there’s no mistaking it. No one dares say it, but a few days after the arrival of the gloom and the nip, when a breeze goes from bringing light relief to an unwelcome chill, someone will say it.
“It’s gone quick, hasn’t it?”
The death of the Great British summer. We mark its passing as if we never really noticed it in the first place, which - for all summery intents and Mediterranean purposes - it never really was. Meteorological summer ends with August but often it leaves with July.
Holidays over. Kids corralled in playgrounds. People realising they had maybe 10 days of sun. A wistful feeling of being short-changed. Central heating pipes rattling into life as the curtains close. Weren’t we promised a heatwave?
Then, the final stage of that unstoppable ingrained checklist. “It’ll be Christmas before we know it.”