They say summers are never as hot as those of your youth. But even though he is heated by nostalgia, in his youth no recorded temperature ever exceeded 30°C (86°F) for six consecutive days in September.
On Viking Bay beach in Broadstairs, Sarah Myers Conraby was enjoying the sun but also worried about what the thermometer reading meant in terms of climate change and global warming.
“We shouldn’t be this hot in September,” she said. “It is not a good thing.” Her husband, Richard Myers, originally from New Orleans, tried to correct her pessimistic English attitude: “No, that East a good thing!”
Two weeks ago he suffered a stroke that left him half blind. It came to Broadstairs for its calming medicinal effects. “The refreshing waters of the English Riviera provide incredible healing,” he explains.
Unlike the Italian or French Rivieras, located on the sparkling seas of the Mediterranean, the water on this part of the Thanet coast, about 75 miles from central London, is a sort of murky gray-green, but that only adds to its appeal for tourists. Richard.
“It’s covered in this lovely film,” he said. “It’s almost like being caressed by seaweed.”
The British seaside has not enjoyed the most glorious reputation in recent years, often described as a desperate or run-down alternative to the glamor of the Mediterranean or Adriatic coasts. And while the brief fashion for “staycations” linked to Covid reigned for one or two summers, the desire to escape these islands returned with force.
The tendency for privatized water companies to dump quantities of raw sewage into the sea has also done no favors for national holidays, leaving the UK at the bottom of Europe’s clean beach rankings.
Global warming, sea pollution and carcinogenic rays from the sun: summer no longer seems as simple as before, when popular feelings about the heatwave could be perfectly captured in the title “Phwoar, what a heatwave!”
“Come on!” » protests Antonio Magno, looking out at the waveless sea and crowded sandy beach from the promenade above the cliffs of Viking Bay. “It’s beautiful, it matches the beaches we have in Italy.”
His wife Maria, who is English, would prefer to go abroad, but she does not have enough annual leave to travel. “I think it’s a little dirty in here,” she said.
However, they agree on what they like most in hot weather: “ice cream”. In front of Morelli’s ice cream parlor, which prides itself on being the first in the United Kingdom to serve more than 20 flavors, Derek Walker and Sybille Hulbert prepare to treat themselves.
“I love Colombian chocolate,” says Derek, who came from London on a day trip. Her plan is ice cream and a swim. Sybille has a one-word answer to the question of what she enjoys most during a heatwave: cocktails.
Perhaps it’s because this heatwave came at the end of a largely disappointing summer, when everyone was bracing for the consolations of autumn melancholy, but there seems to be something missing on this afternoon. The summer was lazy and foggy. There is a perceptible absence of English madness – that almost demented urge to take advantage of any sign of sunshine lest it not last.
There are a lot of people heading towards the beach but they walk around in no hurry, dare we say relaxed.
It seems quite civilized, strangely sober, as if sun worshipers had become accustomed to to this high temperature activity. So it’s reassuring to meet Emer Lee and Pete Bagot.
They were supposed to go camping this weekend with his brother, but realized it would be pure madness during the hottest weekend of the year. They traveled to Brockwell Lido in south London on Tuesday because it was so hot, and booked a last-minute Airbnb while they were there.
“It’s panicking because it’s the end of summer,” Pete says.
Tony and Jill Cooper, as long-time residents of Broadstairs, are seasoned witnesses to this panic. “You see people going straight down and laying on the beach, and they’re white as anything,” Jill says.
“And then, at the end of the day, they look like lobsters,” says Tony.
They both emphasize the need to be careful in the sun, an exhortation rarely heard in the days when sunburns were worn as a mandatory war wound, a badge of honor in the battle to get a tan. We’re now talking about sunscreen and factor 50, a recognition that “looking good,” as tanned people are commonly described, increasingly means “under threat of terminal illness.”
“I love feeling the sun on my skin,” confides Aude Vuilli, although well covered with a hat.
She and her partner, Vish Kumar, walk along the coast to Margate. Switzerland may have impressive mountains and beautiful lakes, but it has no sea, even the grayish, opaque sea that mostly surrounds this island.
Seen from its more detached point of view, it is possible to see a charming scene, full of warmth, filled with happy faces, that unmistakable look of the city dwellers who braved the traffic jams, the stuffy cars and the crowded trains and made a way for themselves. path under a fierce sun to the invigorating release of the sea.
And for a scorching September Saturday afternoon, the English seaside seems surprisingly cool.