The silly season


Hubby came back from Malaysia last week and he immediately felt the difference. The lazy laid back sensations. The warm, dry air. The hum of drinks and conversations at pubs. A cycle to town, a badminton game. No hurry to go anywhere after. Yes, it’s August, it’s summer and it’s the silly season. (Updated 2019: read the Economist on why Europeans slack off in August)

As one who moved to the UK from a fast moving, pressure filled 24/7/365 society of Asia, the silly season took some getting used to. People walked when they could take a bus. Cycled when they could drive. Played when they should work. There is even a Wikipedia entry of it (even though it tends to slant towards the media).

I love the silly season. It’s a time of hot days and cooling nights not the way it was in Asia, but dry hot days where you could spend hours outside drinking, eating, talking. It’s a time of creativity where I compose music, create things, write papers. It’s the time I discover new places and new interests, this year on the bicycle. While I liked going back to Asia in summer and have had only been in the UK for the silly season 3 out of 13 years I’ve been here, I’ve enjoy it so much I don’t really want to do summer anywhere else now.

The best bit about the silly season is that it generally is the case for everyone. In Asia, you could go for a holiday and come home to a hundred emails because everyone else has been working. The silly season here begins slowly. You go somewhere and you come back to catch up and then realise there is very little to catch up on. Then you send a few half hearted chaser emails but then you get an out-of-office reply so you then sit back. Do something else and then like it, feel guilty and get back to the desk. And then realise again there are still barely any emails. After awhile you relax and slow down yourself. During the silly season, we, collectively as a society, almost without any cooperation, implicitly decide that it’s pointless to work since everyone isn’t and it becomes self fulfilling so the whole system slows down and grinds. to. a. halt. Emails go down by 99%. But then collectively, we breathe. we eat cucumber and melons. we let the warm air in. And live*.

To me the silly season is Britain’s most creative season. Some of us who love our research work will work all through summer because it’s also our leisure. Yet, that work take a very creative slant during the silly season because of the freeing up of headspace, the warm sunshine, the cucumbers and melon – who knows. We organise ourselves. We tidy up our digital stuff. We might even sort out photos (OK, maybe that’s too far). But more importantly, we create headspace and think of new stuff, silly stuff even. After all, Wittgenstein did say that If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. Hubby asked yesterday “so when does everyone get back to work?”. That made me laugh. To me, as I am sure it is to many others, this is work. It’s meaningful, creative, more headspace, reflective, free wheeling ‘work’ because our minds and our bodies are joined up and our vocations are entangled with our daily lives. It’s the work of living that is the secret sauce of our creative British workforce.

So bring on the silly season. It’s silliness at its very best. 🙂

*Clearly that doesn’t happen to everyone. Most in the building trade continue but even then, for most types of work, days off and holidays are longer.

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