The 18 Stages Of… The British Bank Holiday BBQ

Italian Red Wine

Oh, the humble BBQ — a staple of summertime in Britain. Supermarket magazines would have you believe that these BBQs take place over long, sunny afternoons, with a variety of meats being served and homemade picnic food on the side. But let’s face it: we all buy some decent looking burgers and sausages (with some veggie alternatives, if that’s your thing), some rolls, and that plastic-looking cheese that comes wrapped in clear film, dig out a half-empty bottle of ketchup from the cupboard, and eat inside because it’s raining. Occasionally someone will suggest staying outside and you will sit there, hoodie zipped up, hunched over a disappointing sausage (steady on) until some brave soul politely points to ‘those evil clouds’ and you all head in, secretly relieved.

Sound familiar?

5:35pm: Check tomorrow’s weather report, which predicts we will have glorious sunny spells, with cloudier skies on Monday.

8:30am: Wake up and look out of the window to see grey clouds and fog.

9:30am: Discover the pollen count is still out in full force after being struck by a rather alarming sneezing fit.

9:34am: Shove antihistamines down throat and hope for best.

9:45am: Shower and attempt to get dressed  — what does one wear when we are predicted to have all types of weather? Go for layers.

10:30am: Start putting make-up on, paying extra attention to concealing bright pink nose. Consider red lipstick before remembering what happened last time (all on the chin and none on the lips. Sexy). Opt for muted coral instead.

12:04pm: Set off for Auntie Sue’s. Mum sings. My brother and I wish we were as deaf as Dad.

12:54pm: Arrive at Auntie Sue’s. She’s put most of the food in the oven (‘Don’t want food poisoning,’ she says, and quite right) but we stubbornly continue to refer to this gathering as a BBQ anyway.

1:03pm: Auntie Sue shows us the Christmas wreaths and reindeers she’s been making. In May. We all admire them, except Auntie Sandy, who watches from a distance and apologises for having ‘sausagey fingers’.

1:22pm: Uncle Dickie opens the Italian wine Giulia gave us. I don’t even like wine, to be honest, but this is gorgeous: smooth, full-bodied, and sophisticated. Even Mum approves (“‘ere, Sue, get yer gob round this!”)

1:51pm: Lunch is served. On the menu? Burgers and sausages, plus buns, cheese, and onions to go with them, chicken, roasted veg, potatoes, and, rather randomly, onion bhajis. Not complaining — I’m not a curry person but I do love all the extras.

2:12pm: Finish eating and sit back in our garden chairs, satisfied.

‘Do you want a coffee, Mike?’ asks Auntie Sue. Uncle Mike looks delighted.

‘Ooh, yes please, Sue,’ he replies eagerly.

‘Off you go then, put the kettle on!’

Uncle Mike does not look so delighted anymore.

3pm: Sit down to watch the opening ten minutes of the rugby.

3:41pm: Finish watching the first half, having not moved for forty minutes. Bombarded with ‘Who are you supporting?’, even though I no longer live in Wales, I’ve never supported Wales anyway, and we don’t have any Welsh ancestry.

3:52pm: Accidentally set off a Mexican wave of yawning.

4:20pm: Customary quiz about my future plans occurs and I make the mistake of telling them all how stressful job hunting is.

‘You’ll go grey at thirty,’ Mum says.

‘You went grey because you had kids. I don’t want kids; I shall have dogs.’

‘Oh, no,’ says Uncle Dickie’s mum, Anne, ‘you need to have children. Otherwise you’ll grow old and be alone.’

‘I have people, I won’t be alone.’

‘Yes you will.’


4:21pm: Sit there contemplating the pros and cons of a life in solitude until Uncle Dickie says, ‘Mother, four of your five children live abroad!’

5:46pm: Arrive home clutching leftovers in one hand and an empty wine bottle in the other. Collapse on sofa.

Have you ever seen the meme that says ‘Where do you see yourself in ten years time?’ and the reply is just a photo of a woman pushing a pram full of really cute dogs? That’s gonna be me, sorry, Anne! Actually, I’m not sorry; it’s entirely my choice.

What are your bank holiday traditions? Let me know in the comments!