Bubble Rap: Susie Lau on whether we can really take a load off in August

·3-min read
 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

What are you doing this summer? This is a question that currently seeps into most polite conversations with casual well-meaning, but then my non-committal answer of, ‘I have no idea,’ sends me down a rabbit hole of blind panic. My Instagram algorithm picks up on this and starts showing me Reels of rustic villas with tastefully tiled pools (that are inevitably already booked up). I leave the Airbnb search option with ‘I’m flexible’ and still find nothing. I look at flights on Skyscanner with weird-timed departures (3am? Sure!) on budget airlines with non-budget prices.

I’ve always dawdled about summers, allowing June to proceed in full work steam, and then July to be broken up by an insufficient week away somewhere vaguely hot with the child (which evidently results in my needing another holiday after the kiddy holiday). Then from exhaustion of planning ‘summer’, I’ll loiter in London in August listlessly, floating around with the tumbleweed of beer cans, empty Calippo tubes and cut-up festival wristbands.

But there is a new-found urgency to this summer. It’s of course the first post-pandemic summer, burgeoning with opportunities, with most travel restrictions lifted and Britons are no longer Covid-rampant pariahs. Rescheduled destination weddings are ON. Big birthday dos are ON. Every reason to get away will be warranted and justified. Our hopes and expectations funnelled into the purchase of, say, a new seersucker bikini, are now manifested tenfold.

And yet actually finding a good block of time to have an uninterrupted summer, as opposed to itty-bitty getaways, still seems ambitious. Even with the extra bank holiday this year, our summers are still disjointed in comparison to our European counterparts. I’ve just returned from Milan where kids were already chucking shaving foam and coloured chalk powder at each other celebrating their last day of school, and thus begin their three month summer break, in comparison to the six-ish weeks my daughter gets. We’ll all be familiar with rocking up to that raved-about restaurant in parts of France, Italy and Spain, only to find the shutters closed as people truly wind down for the month of August. I seethe at my laptop, with damp squib summer rain pouring outside, as the out-of-office emails from agencies and brands in Milan and Paris begin to pile up.

They are off. They cannot be reached. They’ll reply on the first of September. Countless Reddit and Quora questions crop up from curious Americans, puzzling how European countries function by taking August off.

One progressive UK company, 64 Million Artists (granted, it’s a creative catalyst enterprise), is giving its employees the entire month of August off with full pay. According to its founder, Jo Hunter, she’s hoping she’ll come back on 1 September and genuinely tell people that she’s good when they ask, ‘How are you?’ With a vaguely legitimate reason that I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant, for the first time in my working life, I’ll set up an out-ofoffice email for the duration of August. In the same way that people are trying to convince me that belly chains and boot-cut jeans are a thing again, I’m trying to make August-off happen. I’m dropping it in every opportunity I have. ‘I’m taking August OFF. As in OFF-OFF!’

Come 3 August after two do-nothing days I might buckle. A brief will land in my inbox. An assignment that is fun or lucrative. And then f*** it. I’ll tell myself what I tell myself every year. Summer in London is the best.

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