But this July, things are different. It’s a beautiful summer’s day and I’m sitting in a coffee shop in London. That’s right. I’ve chosen to sit inside. Despite living in one of the hottest places on the planet, where temperatures in Dubai are 48C, the UK is enjoying it’s own little heat wave and it’s actually too hot to sit in the sun. It’s fantastic.
Returning to the UK this time, with the distance of 12 months since our last visit, has meant that I’m able to view life almost as a tourist. I don’t want to feel like a stranger in my home country but it’s refreshing to see things from a different angle, viewing warts and all.
Let’s start at the airport. With a three year old grabbing an area of her anatomy that isn’t entirely welcomed by polite society, my first job on touchdown was to find the ladies’ room. Now, I’m happy to get sweaty running up a mountain, or muddy while camping in a field in the UK, but I’m fastidious about cleanliness when it comes to human dirt. The toilets in the UK aren’t great. I won’t go into details, but here’s my advice for what it’s worth: cleaners, please do your job properly. Users, please be respectful of others and wash your hands. Rant over.
Now moving on to the passport control. This is usually another subject that brings forth a litany of complaints, starting with why there isn’t a queue for British passport holders when other countries put their nationals first. But I have to say the staff on this occasion where brilliant. They were firm but friendly, engaged and polite. Top marks when this is for most visitors their first impression of the country.
No assessment of the UK would be complete without mentioning the weather, several times. However, given the country is in the middle of a heat wave, it’s hard to do anything but match the sunny skies with a sunny disposition. I accept that when you’re packed into a train with sweat trickling down your back is not a pleasant experience, but we just need to accept that the UK isn’t set up for hot weather because it doesn’t happen often enough. There isn’t enough air conditioning, because it isn’t worth the investment. But forget the down sides (it isn’t environmentally friendly anyway). You can’t beat sitting in the garden surrounded by English roses with a glass of chilled white wine in your hand. Hold that thought.
And then there is the countryside itself. Flat plains, rocky mountains or dairy farms and hedgerows. The UK has it all. I love pulling on my trainers and running into the woods to explore the ancient paths and meandering tracks.
So, to wrap up a few more observations, I’d like to praise the courtesy of most drivers who stop the traffic to let me cross with my young children; I’d like reassess our national sense of style when the weather warms up, revealing naked skin and tattoos; I’d like to say thank you to the nun walking along with a mobile phone, who made me smile, and to the man who asked if I needed directions.
And finally, I’d like people to take pride in their heritage and homeland. Try viewing your surroundings through the eyes of a tourist. Revel in the positives. Try to improve the negatives. We’ve shown how good we are at celebrating and raising the flag; whether it’s winning the Tour de France or the birth of a Royal baby. Can’t we take pride in everyday life too?
And if you’re still wondering what it’s like to be British, this article might make you smile. Click here to read Flying the British flag in the face of confusion.