There’s a sinking feeling whenever I realise we have passed the longest day of the year. Mostly because I know those carefree summer nights are now numbered and eventually the days will draw shorter and shorter again until we’re left sat in a beer garden making the most of the dwindling sunlight and pretending it’s warm enough to be wearing next to nothing.
But it’s also a reminder that the best bit of the season is on our doorstep (hopefully) and to make the most of leaving the house without a coat and soak up the late sunsets and live in the moment.
With stretched out evenings comes the opportunity to relish in the company of friends and family and an obsession with spending as much time as possible outside. Barbecues are excuses to gather in a garden (probably under a gazebo let’s face it), sharing stories and good food and when it turns dark we shrug throws over our shoulders and huddle a little closer, passing round the remaining Coronas.
Even when night falls there’s a strong sense that the good times will last forever and whatever shit we need to get up and get done tomorrow can wait (although it’s a different story when tomorrow actually comes).
It’s these nights that make me feel invincible: the golden hour sun melts like butter over you, the sweetness seeping into your skin and temporarily soothing any worries. The gradual black sky drowsily covers the last ones standing like an inviting blanket, rather than the frightening mystery it typically brings.
You’re full and content and surrounded by people that effortlessly charm laughter out of you like a snake out of a basket. When bedtime finally comes (if it does) the woody smell of smoke is embedded into your clothes and hair: a momento to keep and use to absent-mindedly retrieve hazy, happy memories whenever you catch the same scent escaping someone else’s garden.
It’s a role reversal from the summer parties as a kid, where the grown ups sip forbidden drinks and belly laugh about conversations that your ears don’t understand. You’re a bubbly ball of joy as family and family friends start piling into the house and you wait for ‘your people’ to arrive (cousins, half-remembered children from other parties, and in my case nieces and nephews) so you can climb trees and sneak around the places you’re not meant to because the adults are finally distracted.
Those sweltering days felt like a lifetime, mostly because when the sun set it was a rare occasion you could stay up past bedtime and listen to ghost stories in the garden, protesting you’re not tired despite uncontrollable yawns betraying your pretence. When you do fall asleep it’s with the muffled, drunken sounds of parents and older siblings tickling your ears.
As we get older we start to associate the sun with all the good things: the moment it makes an appearance we become like kids in a sweet shop, drooling over all the possibilities. Plans are formed, making their way through friendship groups and encouraging you through work with a ferocity that ensures you make it before the daylight fades.
Sainsbury’s local awaits you with its array of convenient but overpriced multipacks of beer and disposable barbecues, and thanks to some stealthy WhatsApp group-messages you find yourself at a mates’s front door armed with cheap wine and ridiculously expensive burger cheese.
We Brits aren’t great at everything, but we sure know how to throw a fucking good BBQ.
A white skirt probably isn’t the best attire for eating any kind of food (the night pictured was actually a big Mexican feast for my friend’s birthday in Wales) but I love the way it looks paired with the charity shop shirt I found a few weeks ago!
The oriental style clashes with trainers and a miniskirt and creates a fresh vibe, brought full circle with a touch of signature gold jewellery and a retro shoulder bag. I picked the earrings, bag and shirt on same trip, all from Tenevous (my absolute fave) and the grand total was about £15.
Wishing you a summer filled with warm BBQ weather, whatever your little traditions.
Ph. Josh Watkins