The time is 11.30pm. Across the country, millions of young men rub the hangover from their eyes and scratch their heads. Something is missing. Something important. Check wallet and phone. Then it hits. The football’s over. Two months stretch out to a million years in that moment.
Notifications ping on millions of screens…
>>[BBQ in the park?]
>[Yeh sounds good]
>>[Bring a ball]
And so it begins. One by one, rabbles of men begin to assemble outside local train-stations across the land.
Squinting their eyes against the sting of the sunlight, they jostle and banter over last night’s tales. They descend on the nearest supermarket, to arm themselves with the essential ingredients for the day: beer, meat, bread, crisps, crappy little metal bbq things. The security guard hovers near the doors, eyeing their hoard knowlingly as they exit.
The group pauses at the park gate. They have arrived late. The wide expanse of green is littered with clusters of people. Children’s shrieks waft through the gentle hum of voices and distant music hovering above the park. The unmistakeable crack of a can opening rips through the air, followed shortly by 3 or 4 more. Slowly, they begin to pick their way through the groups stretched across the ground.
They are not too late. A perfectly sized patch emerges at the fringes of the crowds and they beeline towards it. Bags are set down and the men stretch their way across the space, tapping the ball gently between them, almost-full cans held at arms length. Someone sits down to roll a joint and plug a phone into a pair of small grey speakers. They add their own tinny beat to the music floating in the summer haze.
Before too long, and helped in part by the beer, hangover hunger bores a hollow in their stomachs. The thin plastic bags are ripped apart and they assemble the feast on the grass, lining up the cheap metal trays beside the mound of food. Someone takes an instagram.
It usually takes at least three men to light a fire in these circumstances, and a couple of good lighters. Standing and crouching around the bbq, they discuss the strategy and begin poking the lighters at the corner of the trays. Moments later, the ball poings dangerously close to the infant flames, sparking the traditional exchange of curses.
Finally, after a couple of false starts, a little more cursing, and the melting of one of the lighters, the air begins to quiver above the glinting metal grill. The fire-starters nod their heads, grunting approvingly as smoke begins to curl up from the coals. Summer has begun.