The night of the flying sausages – a British thing

It’s at times like this you’re proud to be British.

The day before late August Bank Holiday Monday is traditionally Jane and Richard’s Barbecue (JRB).

It has never actually been scheduled for the Monday because, as we know, the very words “Bank Holiday” cause a dark mountain of storm clouds to build up over the Irish Sea while an area of low pressure settles over the country inviting winds from as far afield as Siberia and the Arctic (thank you, Michael Fish).

But the Sunday, with few exceptions, has always been set fair for sausages. This was destined to be one of the exceptions.

The forecast said gale force winds, cooler than average temperatures and torrential rain – but did we flinch? No we did not (quick burst of Dambusters music). Well, maybe a little. I put a vest on and then we loaded wine and a Greek salad into the boot of the car and had a debate about whether to add wellies, sou’westers and cagoules. In the end we decided an umbrella was a reasonable compromise.

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A rain storm and flash flooding on the patio left us wondering whether we should ring to check that Jane was going ahead but we knew that, barring six feet snow drifts, she would so didn’t bother.

Before we left, however, I did ring my mum and warned her to stay indoors in case of low flying sausages.

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In the JRB garden, guest Wendy was drying down the chairs and tables with kitchen paper while we enjoyed Pimms. If it hadn’t been for the weather, it could have been summer.

There were 12 us altogether, 13 if you include Tubbs the dog who was patrolling the area underneath the barbecue, on constant alert for fallen food.

As the sun emerged from behind a cloud we raced outside to take advantage of the balmy late August afternoon. Steam rose gently from the back of my jeans as I sat down on the wet slabs of the pond wall and warmed up.

Richard, entrusted with the barbecue (but not all the cooking), barked orders: “Yes, chef,” we called and scuttled about urgently as a black cloud – similar to the one that concealed the arrival of an alien space ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind – came up quickly over the horizon, propelled by a gusty wind that had already played havoc with the paper napkins.

No sooner had the sausages been spirited away to keep warm in the oven than the heavens opened. All but two us headed into the conservatory. I was one of the two.

“It won’t be much,” my husband reassured me.

“No. But I am getting wet... and so is my Pimms.”

He opened his large umbrella with panache. “There,” he said. “We’re fine, now.”

The rain lashed in under the brolly as the wind whipped round the garden in a vortex.

“I think I’ll go in until it eases off,” I said as my jeans tripled in weight having taken on two gallons of water.

“No gumption, some people,” he said as I speedily headed for cover. He overtook me.

The rain eased off; the sun came out and, like a scene from Bambi (Drip, drip, drip, little April showers) we all crept out into the sunshine. Unlike a scene from Bambi, we were all armed with kitchen towel to dry off the garden furniture; again.

The sun came out. White clouds scudded across the sky. White wine scudded across the table as the wind whipped up wine glasses and hurled them over. We battened down our food and drink with cutlery, condiments and elbows and carried on, unperturbed.

I was reminded of the scene from Carry on Up the Khyber when the ambassador and his wife entertain their dinner guests with amusing anecdotes and light-hearted conversation while their embassy is being bombarded and the building starts to collapse about them.

“Food tastes better outside,” remarked one chap as his burger bun was caught up in a table-top tornado.

It does, but you have to catch it first.

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