Jean Byrne, why have you forsaken me? I’m not talking about your fondness for luminous yellow or those accessories manufactured in NASA’s spare parts department (all of which give me a serious Jean-on). All it takes is you reporting a spate of bad mood burglaries by the sun across the South-east and there’s a stampede towards Boots to replenish the fake tan supplies.
And it’s only beginning, the force-feeding me happiness. “Isn’t the weather great?” delivered ad nauseam in the vocal equivalent of three thousand exclamation marks in font size 90, caps lock on. A challenge to the likes of me who shares a facial expression range with Van Morrison on a night out at a comedy club.
Ordinarily, when the temp numbers go double, I barricade myself in the house and wait patiently to swear at the first eager neighbour unable to resist digging out his lawnmower. Usually after he’s done with that other popular outdoor activity – smoking. There he is at his backdoor, post-meat ‘n’ veg Lambert and Butler in one hand, hip in the other, surveying the lawn, and the compulsion hits. Even better if it’s nine at night. If it’s OK for the ice-cream van to come playing the theme from Match of the Day, it’s OK for him to rev up his pneumatic grass-cutter.
This year would’ve been no exception had we not endured one of those visits from friends that will have me lying about being the outdoor type for the remainder of the season. The anxiety usually begins at the biscuit aisle in M&S (height of sophistication round our way), and ends with their premature departure following one crying session too many from their wee one following the umpteenth encounter with our wee one. Halfway up an Ikea tunnel on a tiled floor, as their parents strain to discuss the merits of pre-school programmes, one woman hoping the other hasn’t noticed her one has been enjoying unfettered access to chocolate fingers. But the evidence is everywhere.
So that’s it. From here in, it’s the communal neutral green grass cushioned park. No polite restraint when our children are pulling one another’s limbs off. No no intervening and passive parenting before swiftly feigning concern when the cup has already been knocked over just because they’re having a coronary. And no post-visit grazing on the sickening collection of buns they brought. The same ones that wouldn’t ever meet M&S socialising standards. I’d say it’ll be safe to suggest a dander to the ice-cream van though. Every sun-split cloud and all that.