British Summertime is a thing of exquisite beauty. Hazy days wandering through peaceful meadows, sunshine beating down upon our backs, fresh vegetables growing in abundance, the laugh of children playing on golden sands, expectations of the weeks of glorious weather ahead. Well, that is unless it's raining, you're not being chased by a bull, the birds haven't picked your pea crop clean like a plague of locusts and the laugh of children on golden sands is more likely due to a gang of adolescent hoodies, happy-slapping some poor old codger while filming it on their mobile phones.
But, we can put all that aside and pretent it's going to be nice, can't we?
Visit a Stately Home
Prior to 1972, all stately homes were owned by Sir Malcolm Cholmondly-Richgit, but after a series of high-profile scandals involving fish, baby oil and Madame Whiplash (48) from Oxbridge, he relinquished them to pursue a life of obstinate chastity. Nowadays, any old munter can wander around the priceless antiques, drop a sureptitious sneeky poo in the herbaceous borders or lark around in the apiary. Entrance fees tend to be reasonable but watch out for the gift shops; one minute you're 'just looking', the next, after a rushing wind sound in your ears and the effects of an over-priced coffee from the cafe next door insinuating itself into your blood stream, you'll find youself handing over a weeks wages for an 'antique' tea-towel and a clutch of worthless gem-stones that you've no idea what they're used for.
Tip: The extensive, manicured grounds tend to be fun. Hedge mazes aren't though. 3 weeks I was in there, 3 chuffing weeks.
Let's Go Camping
You find a field, you pitch a tent, lie back, relax and think of England. That's the image that tent manufacturers and genteel campsites would like us to have. Let me put it another way: Spend hours trying to work out how the damn poles line up to the stupid colour-coding system the tent manufacturer has deemed to use and then undertake a course in Urdu to read the instructions. Have a wander to see what the nearest facilities are like and tread in a large, green cow-pat on the way. Spend another hour arguing with the ignorant munter who has parked his stupid-looking mobile home only inches away from your tent front door, belching fumes into your temporary domicile. End up being the victim of a Gypsy Fatwa after you have the audacity to tell the tent next door to quieten down at three o'clock in the morning because they've haven't stopped drinking since yesterday. Pack up your tent in disgust and go home, completely frazzled, unrelaxed and trying to reassure the screaming kids we *aren't* going to be hunted and gutted like pigs. Camping, it's brilliant.
Tip: Never stay at a campsite where they search you for weapons before you go in. Especially when they give you one if haven't got one already.
What better way to spend a pleasant evening than to be entertained by an orchestra playing the classics like Rachmaninov's 3rd symphony, 'Lady in Red' by Chris De Burgh and 'The Birdie Song'. Throw in some fireworks, a picnic, a chequed rug and you've got entertainment nirvana. It's even better when the fly-past by World War 2 fighter planes turns out to be a rookie pilot trying to land his single-engined Cessna on the nearby A64 because his instructor has had a heart attack. How we laughed.
Tip: The inclusion of Stinking Bishop cheese into any picnic is always good for ensuring a clear and uncluttered view of the proceedings.
Taking the 'outdoor' music vibe to a new level, consider attending one of the many festivals that occur throughout the Summer months. Of course, like Wimbledon fortnight, these festivals coincide with the British rainy season (from March through October) and so, instead of Jesus sandles, flowers in your hair and free-love, it tends to be wellington boots, waterproof hats and cholera. If you can find your tent beneath all that mud, it'll probably have been rifled through and all your worldly possessions nicked and sold off on the black market behind the folk-music marquee (Folk Music: A bearded bloke strumming a wash board to a herd of cows). For the privilege of this little jaunt? Six thousand pounds to you Sir for a weekend pass and that includes entry to the face-painting tent.
Tip: Don't buy headache tables from anyone. You'll be face down in the mud, biting a pillow faster than you can say, 'Leaky Bottom'.
Put some adventure in your life and break out that 'Mother Cooker' apron with a picture of a nude, muscle-bound hunk on the front (it's modelled on me, but I don't like to go on about it) by grilling some poorly-cooked meat on an open fire, giving your guests acute food poisoning then getting drunk on cheap lager before falling asleep in the rhodedandron bush. It's a British institution, after all. As they say in Austria, 'Putten eine uder shrimpen en zee barbie'.
Tip: Give your first batch of partially-cooked, burnt-on-the-outside sausages to sneering Uncle Knobhead who's sozzled in the corner and trying to give his dodgy roll-up ciggies to the kids.
What's not to love about taking the kids out for a day and petting some cute liccle aminals? There are loads of these small zoos dotted around but we're particularly fond of 'Teeth and Stings' in Hatfield, near Doncaster. Baby goats, fluffy lambs, iccle wiccle chirpy chicks are just some of the live animals fed to the other larger, more dangerous and much more laughably impressive animals here in Sunny Donny. Stroke an alligator, feel the sting of a scorpion (it's like a bee sting but with added 'oomph'!), run away in stark abject terror from the rampaging hippopototopomaiii, play hide and seek with real lions. It's all good wholesome family fun and if safety is a concern, medics are always standing-by, you know, 'just in case'.
Tip: Always use a car to travel through a Safari park. Having a gang of rhesus monkeys trying to steal your underpants is no laughing matter. Well, at first it is but after a while, it becomes tiresome.
If modern-day safari parks are not your thing, why not get your thrills by launching yourself off a steep hill strapped to just a piece of cloth and a few metal bars, wearing naught but a safety helmet. After all, if you fall from the sky at a thousand feet, you'd want to protect your head wouldn't you? Experience what it's like to be a bird without all that tedious worm-eating nonsense. By wearing no clothes, you can feel the wind streaking over your body, your bits dangling in the fresh Summer sun imbuing a sense of wonderment and freedom. For a laugh, you can even take a pot of white paint and drop it on people while cheerfully shouting, "Sorry! I'm a bird you know" then flying off into the sunset.
Tip: Don't fly through a flock of birds. You don't want your dangling bits to be mistaken for a mid-day snack. Or, in my case, an all-you-can-eat buffet.
It's hard to recommend this one. With the weakened state of economic affairs in this country, the power of the pound has been diminished in foreign climes. What used to buy a two week sojourn to the majestic golden beaches of yonder shores will now only stretch to a wet weekend in an immigration camp overlooking a rubbish tip. Still, you might be able to spot the odd comedian as they film begging slots for Red Nose Day in your holiday 'resort'.
Tip: Go to Margate instead.
If normal, everyday running is just a bit too boring and mountaineering has become blase, try your hand at free-running, or 'Parkour' as it's known. Basically, it consists of jumping over walls, fences, shimmying up drainpipes and running really fast while performing acrobatic moves. It helps to be a bit fit, if I'm honest. I tried it last year and because my bulbous body is so huge, it has started to create its own gravity field. Thus, jumping over anything metal, or indeed, anything, is quite difficult as the things you're jumping over are inexplicably drawn to my flailing limbs and wobbling moobs. Hence, a small gate leap, face-plant, hospital, big unsightly plaster over nose. Stupid idea. Don't do it.
Tip: Leave fence-jumping and drainpipe-shimmying to the professionals. Or, 'Burglars', as they're known.
It's an oft-quoted example but Mark Twain really did get it bang on the money. It's a good walk spoiled. But, if you have the inclination, dust off those rusty sticks in the basement, put on a pair of Rupert the Bear shorts and head out onto the clean cut fairways, breathing in all that lovely fresh air, that Summer sunshine doing you a world of good. Unless you're playing on a Doncaster Municipal course in which case, along with the more normal hazards such as bunkers, lakes and out-of-bounds signs, you'll find shopping trolleys, muggers, unexploded ordinance and the odd fornicating couple. It's like a 5,000 yard par-72 crazy golf course with added danger, especially when you have to line up your shot from the crevice of a thrusting derriere.
Tip: A bucket of cold water and shouts of 'Oi, you two, stop moving, I'm trying to get a birdie' will help.
Summer Holidays are full of expectation with weeks of sunshine stretching far into the distance. Well, unless you live anywhere but Britain. Go to the Falklands, I hear it's better weather at this time of year. Give my regards to the penguins. I think I might just stay indoors and watch Jeremy Kyle and feel better about myself. Happy Summer Everyone!