The onset of spring has brought some predictably unpredictable weather. As the equinox arrived, Britain was bathed in warm sunshine and millions who had been cowering indoors for months were quick to dash out and enjoy the glorious weather under a clear blue sky.
Of course, by the time the clocks were going forward a week later the weather had started to turn, with snow and sub-zero temperatures soon on the way for many.
All that is a reminder of the capricious nature of spring, but the warmer days of late March may just be a harbinger of that most desirable of things: A barbecue summer.
Of course, weather forecasters will be wary of predicting such as thing lest it turn out to be very wet. In an age of climate change Britain’s changeable weather has got more erratic. But, assuming we do at least get a fairly decent summer, there should be loads of great days in the sun to come over the next few months.
For many, that means a lot of alcohol, especially beer. It could be a few pints around the barbecue in the back yard, or drinks at the cricket - some might say the England team’s performance will prompt a few to increase consumption - or a few cans on the beach (please avoid litter and take them home).
All this may come with some peer pressure that drinking is the thing to do in summer. But that need not be the case. In fact, there is more reason to enjoy an alcohol-free beer instead than there has ever been.
According to Alcohol Change UK, the amount people consumed rose in the early years of this century but, after peaking in the mid-2000s, it has been in decline, especially among younger people. Indeed, they make up a disproportionate share of the 20 per cent of who do not drink at all, whereas just four per cent of the population account for 30 per cent of the alcohol consumed.
This analysis also notes that heavy drinking is now mainly a preserve of those who are middle aged and older, which may be a sign that a generation growing up with alcoholic excess at the end of the 20th century has continued the habit as they get older.
All this means that if you are young and don’t really want to get tanked up on beer this summer, you are in very good company. If you are middle aged and feel you stick out like a sore thumb among heavy-drinking friends, the fact is that your generation is an anomaly; drinking much more than the generations before and after.
Besides all that, sometimes summer can be much more pleasant when there’s less booze. You may find the cheaper seats in the alcohol-free stand at the cricket offer a nicer experience. A backyard party without too much drink will be more family friendly. Best of all, you’ll feel better the next morning, ensuring that’s another summer day to make the most of.