July is here, which as every Brit knows means that it’s time for Wimbledon. And as anyone familiar with Wimbledon knows, it’s strawberry season in the UK. For many it’s an absolute highlight of the early summer – eating fresh ripe strawberries and cream while watching the tennis. And while we at the Varsity Hotel Cambridge love Wimbledon and strawberries and cream, this time of year is a little different in Cambridge.
If you ask people when summer begins you’ll probably get a lot of different answers. But most would agree that June is a summer month. And given that we in the UK just suffered through the hottest June since records began, that seems perfectly reasonable. But not in Cambridge. Here the summer begins in July.
June is the final month of the academic year in Cambridge. There are exams, the Bumps, May Balls and garden parties aplenty. Then there are graduations and other parties. And then, around about the end of the month, the city’s population drops by 15,000 as the students go home for the summer. That’s a 10% drop overnight, and the vibe and feeling of the city suddenly changes.
The students then stay gone for about three months, only returning for a new academic year at the start of October. So it’s fair to say that the summer season in Cambridge begins at the start of July. We now begin a period of relaxation best showcased by lounging around open air venues such as our iconic Roof Terrace. Punctuated only occasionally by hordes of language students and other tourists.
But for most of the rest of the country, the start of July means only one thing – Wimbledon. Without a doubt the most prestigious and iconic of all tennis tournaments across the world. Which might seem odd, given how quirky the competition can be. A natural feature of holding an outdoor tennis tournament in a country whose weather stereotypes are well known the world over.
“In July the sun is hot. Is it shining? No it’s not!”
That pretty much sums up the stereotype. Though in recent years it’s been rare to see the stereotype actual occur. Though the first week of July has certainly fit the bill. Still, this can give Wimbledon a level of uncertainty which is very odd in the modern sporting context.
These days, with sporting events ever more dominated by TV requirements, consistency is key. Rare is it that major events are even significantly delayed, let alone cancelled or abandoned. There’s just too much money at stake.
Yet it is exactly this that gives Wimbledon so much of its character. Rain can stop play altogether, or simply cause an hour long pause. When darkness falls, games are halted. Only to begin the next day like nothing happened. Even if they are all but over. As with many English traditions, it makes Wimbledon akin to a quaint relic from a simpler age. And one which we at the Varsity Hotel, like so many others across the world, have come to love.