It’s a Bank Holiday here in UK land – or the fifty-first state as it’s more commonly known. Fifty-first? Fifty-second? How would I know, I don’t even know how many counties we’ve got here and you could fit the whole shebang into Central Park with room round the edges for immigration and a dog track. Although you’d have to find somewhere else for the Scots as they are currently on an independence high and sawing their way along Hadrian’s Wall with a view to casting themselves off.
Anyway, Bank Holidays are the times when us Brits arm ourselves with barbeque gear, enough food to feed the massed armies of several small republics, and an optimism that consistently fails to be met by reality. The heavens open, we are deluged with rain and we retreat indoors with all the neighbourhood kids, their dogs and assorted elderly relatives waiting for the men (or man more often, as his mates are now down the pub) to dash in out of the thunderstorm periodically with unidentifiable, partially singed, and often still bleeding, bits of dead animal.
It didn’t used to be like that. In fact when we wanted to be wholly dispirited and soaked to the skin in the interests of leisure, we would drive for hours to a coastal town in vehicles held together with string and started with the aid of a large spanner. There we would sit in shelters on the sea front gazing dismally out at the pounding grey sea and rubbing the blisters caused by the compulsory wearing of plastic sandals. Soggy tomato sandwiches and tea made at five in the morning from a flask that contributed a vaguely metallic flavour to the contents were something of a highlight as this frugal repast at least distracted the adults from that other traditional activity – yelling at the fractious and justifiably whingeing kids.
When that was all over and we had taken another painful stroll along the seafront for the bracing quality of the air, everyone would pile back in the car for the journey home. Dads would then, as one, leap out again and attack the engine with a spanner and off we would all go in clouds of exhaust fumes back to our home towns; all of which seemed to require exactly the same road for roughly 92% of the journey so that an immense queue would build up and vehicles whose spanners and string had not been up to the job would fall by the wayside.
For children, this was a wonderfully exciting diversion as a breakdown might mean the summoning of an AA Man. These jolly chappies would turn up in motorbike and sidecar and salute to your dad, and was that something to talk about at school or what! It beat a couple of dead leaves and a beetle on the nature table that’s for sure. If you were really lucky, you got towed to somewhere exotic like Pocklington or Nafferton and didn’t get home until after midnight.
Today, the Bank Holiday weather is doing its thing so it’s on with the wellies and out with the dogs to encounter people who have come to the countryside with the express intention of not meeting any animals. Please then, go to CenterParks and sit on the astroturf under a polythene propagation tunnel.
 In 2014, they hacked through 42% of the way then got confronted by the English with a crack team of Morris Dancers and went home again.
From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck. Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.