Unsuspecting Surbitonians baffled by appearance of the sun

Only four weeks into writing for this website and I’m already reduced to writing about the weather. This either proves that a) I have the imagination of a broad bean; b) Surbiton is insufferably boring; or c) the weather is mental and worth mentioning. And, as Surbiton is definitely not boring, it must be a combination of the other two.

Let’s face it, the weather is being ridiculous. After months of rotting away in infernal gloom and cold, after I have put my summer clothes in a zip-up bag under the bed, when soggy leaves are clogging up drains, when shops are full of ghost masks, fireworks and advent calendars, the sun has finally decided to get its act together and make an appearance. Well, brilliant.

What’s the POINT in that?? It forsakes us for an entire summer, remains stubbornly absent throughout September, despite hopeful reflections that ‘Perhaps September will be good, September’s normally good...’, and then nonchalantly turns up in October.

So I, like a vast majority of Surbitonians, am now sweating like a pig in an abattoir in my woolly tights, jumpers, scarves and boots, while the sun blazes in a cloudless sky, not a care in the world, no hint of remorse for not showing up when it should have done, when we were hopping about on our back door steps, BBQ tongs in hand, kebabs marinating in the fridge, muttering ‘Any minute now, any minute now’ as the rain battered our begonias.

Some more shrewd—or perhaps just optimistic—Surbitonians were clearly prepared for a late solar appearance: these are the cool, slightly smug-looking people in shorts and T-Shirts and flowing dresses, happily sipping iced mochas and swinging their bags of Christmas crackers and tins of Quality Street by their sides. The young woman who threw off her thick cardigan as she sat outside Puccino’s and breathed ‘Ahh, this is lovely,’ had come prepared with a light summer top underneath. The poor woman in the raincoat and scarf who muttered ‘This is bloody ludicrous’ as she wiped her moist brow and lugged a bag of advent calendars up the high street, had not come prepared.

One little girl in a very pretty summer dress, her face pink with a sunned flush, voiced the question on all our lips as she looked up to her mother and said ‘Mummy, why isn’t it cold?’

I didn’t hear Mummy’s reply, but I hope it was something along the lines of ‘Because, sweetheart, this country has the climatic sense of a spoon and the meteorological knowledge of a postage stamp.’

The late sun seems to have split Surbitonians into two categories: those who are bemusedly delighted by it, and those who are plain hacked off. It is the hacked-off ones who, like me, have already put away their summer wardrobes and are now faced with the daily clothing choice of woolly jumper, thick jeans, jersey dress, thick sweater, woolly scarf, woolly hat, woolly gloves, woolly balaclava, ski jacket, long johns and thermal vest. We are the Surbitonians who are huffing and puffing and looking up at the blistering sun in fury and hissing ‘What are you trying to PROVE?’, like the man in the heavy jacket and red face outside Costa Coffee. Our main reason for being so irked, of course, is embarrassment. We are embarrassed to be wrapped in scarves and jumpers while it’s 23 degrees, the warm breeze is tickling the scratchy polo necks that clasp our sweaty throats, golden sunlight dances through the leaves and ripples on the pavement, and our feet are slowly melting in our two pairs of socks and fur-lined boots. Of course we’re embarrassed. We look stupid.

Those who don’t look stupid are the men with their shirt sleeves rolled up and sunglasses on sipping ice-cold pints in the Victoria garden. They are happy, ecstatic even, to bask in this bewildering sunshine. The two women strolling down St James’ Road in Maxi dresses and shades didn’t look stupid—they looked elated. The couple with the pushchair by Starbucks—the man in shorts and T-Shirt, the woman in a thick winter coat and scarf—looked, frankly, odd, and judging by the content, happy-to-be-alive expression on the man’s face, but the severely narked expression on the woman’s, she definitely knew it.

As well as causing physical discomfort, this unforeseen emergence of the sun is emotionally troubling. Just when I had slipped into an autumnal habit of a nice warming soup for lunch instead of a summery, but ultimately chilly, salad, the rain and wind clears, the sun appears, and the soup is bringing me out in hot flushes. So I stumble back from my steaming bowl of Heinz and reach for the tea towel over the radiator to mop my brow, to find that I have put a red hot cloth of fire to my face because the radiator is on full blast. Dazed, I stagger across the kitchen, falling over my fluffy slippers, and grapple for the ice cubes in the freezer. There are none. Who wants ice cubes in winter? I fling open the back door, hoping for rain to cool my burnt face, to be blinded by white light and scorching rays, and my last sight before I collapse in a trembling heap on the hot patio is of my poor, confused marigolds whom I was convinced were dead but who appear to be merely struggling out of a rainy coma and are now smiling gratefully up at the sun.

But never mind, because it won’t last long. The wind and rain will be back in no time, and once again we Surbitonians will be content and relaxed, because we all know where we are with a bit of drizzle.


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