Sunshine / sunshade

It seems like quite a few years now since we had a warm, sunny summer here in England. I love to sit out in the sun, sipping on a glass of chilled white wine, dining alfresco. My husband tolerates my wishes but becomes grumpy if he gets too hot or if he has the sun in his eyes. This is one of the reasons why we do not travel abroad on holiday. He prefers to be active and finds that the heat restricts him; exhausts him before he feels he has worked hard enough to justify a rest.

At the end of the last sunny summer I was mulling over how to allow us both to enjoy the glorious weather and decided that we needed a sunshade for our patio, where the large, wooden table and benches (that I spent months hunting down) are located. We had acquired a collection of garden umbrellas but none provided enough coverage. They were sufficient for the smaller table that adorns our upper deck and for the picnic table that we keep on the middle deck (we have a sloping garden with lots of levels built in). What I needed for the patio was a shade that would cover it entirely.

I considered having a sail and supports custom made but this proved too costly an option. I looked into having a wooden gazebo built, but this was a permanent solution where I wanted something temporary for the warmest months only. Eventually, I came across a site that offered sturdy marquees of the sort used by market traders and party providers. A small, cheap marquee can be picked up easily in the high street, but these were not available in the size that I required. I was also unconvinced about their longevity in our exposed, hillside garden.

At around the same time as the boxes containing my new purchase were delivered, the weather broke. We have not had a prolonged period of warm, sunny weather since. Each year I have erected the marquee either for a social event (it has protected us from more rain than sun over the years) or because the weather forecasters have promised us barbeque weather that has not lasted. The marquee takes several hours to erect so once it goes up it is not taken down until the end of the season. It has survived wind, rain and hail; it provides us with a useful storage area for the garden toys that emerge from the depths of our shed each year when the sun teases us with a brief appearance.

This year I decided that I would only go to the effort of putting the thing up if I was reasonably confident it could be of use as a sunshade. The weather forecasters tentatively suggested last week that this month could be unusually warm and sunny. When it started to look as if their prediction might actually happen I decided to go for it and spent yesterday constructing. I am writing this from under the marquee’s welcome shade; it is hot out today.

My husband’s reaction to the prospect of a prolonged period of good weather was to order a garden ping pong table. Thus, he is out in the sun making use of this while I sit in the shade, sipping on my glass of cooling water. He has been in town today with our younger son, watching a civil war re-enactment, while I have been tidying the house. I am the one who is supposed to enjoy being out in the sun.

The British spend a great deal of time discussing the weather. It has been said that, if the weather didn’t change once in a while then nine out of ten people couldn’t start a conversation. The welcome arrival of the sun has prompted much happy comment. No doubt it won’t be long before some start complaining that it is too hot to sleep or be exposed to the rays for extended periods.

For now, I am enjoying being able to be outside in the fresh air. I have looked out my underused shorts and strappy tops (unflattering but so comfy to wear) and am making plans to partake of activities that can only be fully enjoyed when the rain and cold stay away.

I seem to have written a blog post about the weather. Oscar Wilde would not be impressed.


‘Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.’