Sunshine: not to be missed
I was powering along the French autoroute in my truly awful car wishing I had gone into mining precious metals or something when my travelling companion piped up from the passenger seat: “Why are you driving so fast?”
It was a good question. We were heading to a small town called Beaune. There was no rush. We weren’t late. We hadn’t even booked anywhere to stay. Nobody was expecting us. The world was even more indifferent to our progress than usual.
“I don’t know,” I replied, backing off a little.
“At least it’s not raining anymore.”
“That’s it,” I said, turning to her. “That’s it.”
“What’s what?” she frowned. “Keep your eyes on the road, you idiot.”
Now, as everybody knows, one of the main reasons to go on holiday is to facilitate just such road-to-Damascus experiences. Indeed, it’s not really a holiday until you have had one. And I knew immediately that this was mine. I had suddenly understood the very quiddity of Britishness. The truth revealed itself in a shaft of Burgundian light: I was driving too fast because… the sun was shining.
“What?” I hear you cry. “Because the sun was shining? Surely, if there is one thing that defines the British is our relationship with the rain.”
Well, actually, no.
Consider the following. You are in Rome writing a sophisticated novel. It’s 30 degrees and the sky is as azure as a field of chicory flowers. You duck inside the darkened doorway of an amenable palazzo—glad to do so—and there you sit behind heavy shutters in cool darkness while you work merrily away confident in the knowledge that it will be just as hot and just as sunny when you emerge. Confident, indeed, that the sun will be shining every day for the foreseeable future and that you will be able to dine al fresco morning, noon and night for months and months and months. The rain, if ever it falls again, will pass quickly and will be but an amusing and refreshing counterpoint.
Or perhaps you’re in Provence—consolidating your thoughts on Proust. You switch off the several fans in your study and out you come for a spot of light lunch. Squinting and desperately seeking shade, you sit down to enjoy your properly ripened tomatoes et cetera. Someone suggests a picnic…