With spring now officially arrived at last, thoughts turn to entertaining in the sunny days and light evenings – a feat that brings its own unique set of challenges when staged in Britain’s unreliable version of summer. If there’s one thing that sums up UK summers to us, it’s a good old-fashioned 99 ice cream. Inherently British and always a little harder to handle than you remember, it’s a nostalgic image that resonates with many and that’s why it’s is Ultimate Experience’s summer icon for 2015. With that in mind, we thought it apt to round up our Top Ten British Institutions to celebrate all that makes our little land great, even if we can’t guarantee sunshine for your event.
1. 99 ice cream
Soft, whipped ice cream served up in a cone and crowned with a Cadbury Flake; the 99 is the elite of British seaside snacks. Some say its name comes from the fact they used to cost 99p, others that it’s a reference to the 99 guards of the Italian King in homage to the ex-pat Italians who ran the UK ice cream industry at the time of its creation. Either way, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Brit whose childhood memories are not laden with its swirled, sticky goodness.
One of the most famous tennis tournaments in the world, Wimbledon is such a national treasure that it dominates the airways, the press and just about any water-cooler conversation for its two-week duration each year. The oldest grand slam in tennis is about as British as it comes with a Royal following, pristine grass courts, strawberries and cream and, of course, Pimms by the gallon. Speaking of which:
Perhaps the most quintessential of British summer drinks, a mere flicker of sunshine is in fact all that’s needed to crack out the Pimms. Best enjoyed on finely manicured lawns or under the obligatory gazebo, the gin-based thirst-quencher is drunk in jugs by the dozen across the UK’s pub gardens and is just the ticket for any summer shindig.
4. The NHS
A true British institute, the NHS is the subject of recent hot debate amongst a plethora of budget cuts and threats of privatisation. Although often badmouthed for its flaws, its all-access premise is something most Brits are fiercely proud of and a rarity in a world where healthcare is still unobtainable for many. And nowhere else will you get a more comfortably lackluster bowl of jelly for dessert.
5. Roast dinners
On the subject of food, it’s often said that Britain’s cuisine is, well, nothing to be spoken of. To which we put forward: the roast dinner. What it lacks in finesse, it makes up for in the fail-safe combination of meat, potatoes and veg topped with lashings of gravy and very likely a Yorkshire pudding. Our Gallic neighbours may hold more revere for their haute cuisine, but we defy you to find a hungry stomach not sated by a good old roast dinner.
Capable of turning the reserved British gent into a chanting hooligan, the footie is undoubtedly our national sport. No other pastime provokes such unwavering loyalty – once you’ve picked (or your dad’s told you) which team you support, you’re stuck with them for life. Perhaps our most gripping drama; its league table twists, player’s antics and manager’s alliances are played out in homes and pubs across the country, causing camaraderie and furore in equal measures.
7. The famed weather
We may be laughed at by friends in sunnier climes for our obsession with the weather, but it’s precisely the fickle nature of the beast that makes it one of the nation’s favourite talking points. Only in Britain could you hold an outdoor event in what can safely be called ‘summer’ anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere and trust your guests to be fully prepared for an impromptu dash for cover when the inevitable weather-180 hits.
8. The tabloids
Where else in the world would 28°C weather (or its winter equivalent of two inches of snow) make front-page fodder, but on the gloriously sensationalist pages of the tabloid press? Often as scandalous as the news they proffer – think phone hacking to the recent on-off relationship with The Sun’s infamous Page 3 – Britain’s redtop rags bring a side of celebrity, sport and a certain swaggering style of reporting to the nation’s breakfast tables.
9. Our accents
Howay, ey up, or even wotcha: For a country so small there’s a maze of dialects to navigate across the British Isles. Mostly attributed to a history full of invasions, our accents have now become a huge part of our identities. Our regional tongues are much mimicked (and regularly ridiculed) both at home and abroad, but we take it on the chin and are staunchly proud of our winsome ways with words.
A cuppa, a brew or even a cup of char; its moniker may vary but tea is undoubtedly the national drink, turned to in times of pleasure and crisis alike. From delicate Earl Grey to savour with scones and clotted cream to the strong and hearty builder’s variety, tea is the elixir that unites the classes yet still provides the basis of many a kettle-side dispute: milk in first or last, with or without sugar, to dunk or not to dunk? It’s a veritable minefield!