The A Little Dave Time Alternative Summer Season
Being a man about town I am aware of the traditional "Social Season" a Victorian creation whereby the High & the Mighty would attend various social & sporting functions in and around London. These would usually coincide with parliament sitting and take in such delights as The Derby, Henley Regatta, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition etc.. after which the Great & The Good would pack themselves off to the country. Nowadays the Season is still practised but to a lesser extent and most of the events are open to everyone as long as you have a few quid and are organised (Wimbledon ballot, Chelsea Flower Show). I have however developed my Alternative Summer Season. It starts at the end of May once my beloved and frustrating CFC have played their last football match and ends at the start of the new football season. Three and a bit months to fit in a multitude of activities.
The Oaks, Epsom racecourse, Surrey, First Friday in June
So this is a bit of a hangover from the football season. I've been going to the Oaks Day part of the Derby Festival (which is actually part of the proper season) for about 10 years now. It all started after one of my footie mates Carl invited me along as he lived on the Downs. It basically involves watching horse racing, losing money and drinking beer. We usually dress up a little bit (jacket & tie) head first to the Derby Arms and then to the course. The weather is usually glorious as we imbibe the atmosphere. My mate Gaz (who is a bookie) usually passes me on a few tips that are mostly fanciful but sometimes come in. As great as the day is I do have reservations about Epsom racecourse. Firstly it is a ripoff £70 just to get in to the Grandstand (The queens stand even more expensive), the catering leaves a lot to be desired, (if you like Cava or Carling you are laughing) and the stewarding suffers as the day goes on (ladies in the gents toilets, drug taking etc..) . However that aside it is a great day out with my friends. We usually stay until the last race and walk back into town via one of the pretty bridleways. I usually return a poorer man financially but enriched by the company.
Middlesex 20:20 at Lords, Thursday nights over summer
I usually try and get tickets for one of the 2 test matches at Lords via the ballot. I have to say the Lords website is a joy to use and registering for the ballot is dead easy. However if you can't get tickets for a day at the test then the 20:20 evenings at Lords are great. Because they are Middlesex fixtures the cost is only £20 booking ahead or £25 on the door. What is even better is that kids get in for a fiver!! So I've taken Baby G a couple of times. Lords is lovely, a beautiful historic ground, getting a drink is easy, nice selection of food. In fact Epsom racecourse could learn a thing or two from the Home of cricket. The 20:20 is a Thursday night so you can have a decent night out with only Friday to struggle through. Obviously it can be affected by weather (I had one washout and a reduced over game) but when the sun is out there is nowhere nicer to be in London.
Latitude Festival, Suffolk, Mid July
As you can probably see from my reviews I'm a big fan of live music but up until recently I'd never been to a proper festival. I went to Bestival for my brother's stag do which was great fun but getting to the Isle of Wight is a faff and the music line up is a bit too dancy/housy for me. Instead Big Matt and I decided to go full John Lewis and go to The Latitude Festival in Suffolk. It is in a beautiful part of the world, it is sizeable but not too big and the choice of acts and activities are diverse. Where else on a weekend can you go to the theatre, opera, ballet, dance at an indie disco, see amazing live music, watch top comics and swim in a Lake? Well here and lots more besides. We've been twice now and it is a great weekend. We arrive on Thursday before the festival opens properly but there is still lots going on. Friday and Saturday is full on fun. Sunday morning we pack up and leave though there is still a day to run. We are both lucky we have understanding wives who don't mind us buggering off for 3 nights. It is a great weekend.
The Great British Beer Festival, Olympia, first week of August
I've been going to this for years, it used to be on at Earls Court but since moving to Olympia it has become a classic. Basically you have a beautiful Victorian exhibition Hall filled with beer. I never remember much about what I drink but it is great fun. I usually go on the Friday afternoon after lunch and if I'm still standing by 8PM that is a good effort. There are plenty of good food options inside, music and even bar games. The tickets are about £8, you hire a glass which you can take home if you buy it, the beers are very reasonable. It's like a giant stag do without the hassle.
Meatopia, Tobacco Dock, beginning of September
Meatopia signals the end of summer and actually dovetails into the football season. It is so good I actually missed Chelsea v Arsenal for it last year. It's a BBQ food festival that has been running for 4 years. Tobacco Dock is another amazing venue, an old waterside warehousing which fills with smoke and delicious smells once the food gets going. Meatopia is not a cheap day out, over £30 just to get in and each dish is about a fiver however it has a lovely fun atmosphere. Some of the food is out of this world, they have several bars doing beer, wines and bourbons. They also have good entertainment on during the day which gives the whole event a party feel.
So there you have my alternative summer season. I would however say that the key to enjoying these events isn't the venue or activity but the people I go with. These 5 events allow me to catch up with all my friends. Apart from Latitude which is Matt & I, the other parts of the season have a revolving cast of companions. All have become part of our summer, we are creating our own traditions