Make-or-break month that brings freedom and danger

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Brace yourself, tomorrow is the big one. For tomorrow, August steams in and, my oh my, it’s a wicked month.

August has a bit of a reputation. It’s like December, but with fewer clothes. People go a bit off-plan, they are not quite themselves – and there can be unintended consequences.

For a start, people don’t live in their own homes.

In August, half the population is on holiday, and the other half is looking after the empty houses and abandoned pets and plants of the people who are on holiday.

It makes for a lot of odd behaviour.

People turn up at work wearing yesterday’s clothes, and it isn’t for any exciting reason. It’s because they have spent the night at their parents’ home so as to be able to feed the cat, the dog, the hamster and the tomatoes.

They stagger in with bad backs from sleeping in a bed that was past its best 10 years ago when they left home, and with their hair flat to their head because all their precious products are in a different place.

At night, instead of enjoying the last of the sun’s rays, as is supposed to happen, they wander around their parents’ garden watering weeds and pulling up plants in a hopeless, desultory fashion, wondering which are those tomato plants that are apparently so thirsty, and then watering a bit of rampant bindweed instead.

Meanwhile, the people who are on holiday are reading things. It may be the first time they have done this all year, and it can come as a shock. Especially if they are reading one of those saucy books that women are apparently now in the habit of downloading onto their e-reader.

The books can open alarming horizons, but for many people they are preferable to the alternative, which is talking.

Talking on holiday is an ever-present danger. Couples in August are often forced to do it. They find themselves flung together for massive and unaccustomed vistas of time. There are no distractions: no cats to feed, no tomato plants to water, no soaps to watch, no dishwasher to load, no jobs to escape to.

Which is why August can be a month of reckoning. Just like Christmas, August can be a time for breaking up, a period when those couples staring at each other across two pina coladas and a plate of squid and chips are forced to accept that they really have nothing left to say to each other that isn’t about the food and drink.

But August can also be a month for making plans. For some people, staring across the holiday abyss, it galvanises them to take out a notepad and map out The Rest Of Their Life. Thus, the new job plan, the retirement plan and the new baby plan all come into being.

Sometimes the new baby plan happens after a period of enjoying August drinks – because we drink things in August that we tend to forget exist the rest of the year: mojito, Pimms, Campari and the Cocktail of the Day, anyone?

And just as we drink things we wouldn’t normally countenance, we wear clothes we wouldn’t normally be seen dead in. Suddenly and inexplicably we come to believe that the right answer to the what-to-wear question is something creased, 20 years old, deeply unfashionable and eye-wateringly revealing.

But most of all, what characterises August is a sense of...freedom. Nothing matters quite so much as it did at the beginning of July or as it will at the beginning of August.

September is a serious month, but August is about letting it all go – the healthy diet, the image, the career climbing.

August is a pause in all that. It can go well, it can go badly. Who knows what might happen?

Personally, I like it, I like that element of danger. It’s wicked.

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