On Sunday I was sitting on the sun parched grass of Bents Park, at the seafront in South Shields, and thinking this is how British summers should always be.
All too often, the summertime in Britain is characterised by washed out plans for barbeques on afternoons that, disappointingly, see dark clouds scud over the garden fence ahead of the heavens bursting.
Enjoying the summer in South Shields
They mean cheering on a tennis star who doesn’t quite win Wimbledon and watching with sinking hopes as the cricketers with three lions on their shirts struggle against Australia. And in years of major football tournaments they usually mean watching with indifference as the competition concludes, thanks to an early exit (all too often on penalties).
Yet the summer of 2013 seems surreally, positively different. The sun has been shining and Britain’s sports stars have been performing well, even in the Tour de France. People seem upbeat, happy, and the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby son looks set to buoy the nation’s mood even further.
A day in Bents Park
I was one of 17,000 people in Bents Park enjoying a free day out as part of the South Tyneside Summer Festival.
Many of the people around me had brought their picnic blankets and were sat together unpacking lunches and sharing snacks from plastic boxes. Others were munching on fish and chips or burgers from the mobile stalls parked around the periphery of the field. A few were finishing chips bought from the award winning Colmans fish and chip shop – which locals recommend as well worth checking out if you haven’t been to South Shields before – a five minute walk away on Ocean Road.
It’s often argued that drinking alcohol in public spaces should be banned as anti-social. Yet, if it’s approached in the right way, drinking in parks or other places doesn’t need to be seen as negative. Relaxing with friends over a couple of beers or a glass of wine can be a great way to spend an afternoon.
Plenty of people around me were chilling with a cold can on Sunday and the mood remained pleasant throughout the day.
A picnic in the park
I have to admit to being slightly envious of a family sitting a few feet away from me; they’d brought a wine cooler and had driven metal holders for their plastic wine glasses into the ground. Why hadn’t I arrived as prepared for the day out?
Over by the stage, people swayed and danced as the band Toploader came to the end of their set. A couple nearby moved together tenderly as Toploader performed Dancing in the Moonlight, perhaps the band’s best known hit.
A number of well-known acts have performed at the South Tyneside Summer Festival. Liberty X played here the previous week, one of the hottest days of the year in the North East. Rick Astley and The Christians will take to the stage on 28 July.
Many in the crowd had come to see The South. The band features former members of the Beautiful South, and performances of hits such as Song For Whoever, Don’t Marry Her and Rotterdam went down well in Bents Park. They also played songs from Refrain, The South’s recently released debut album.
The South Tyneside Summer Festival continues into August. Let’s hope the sunshine does too.
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