I DON’T want to invite doom on Hartlepool on a bank holiday Monday, but this must go down as one of our best barbecue summers for a long time.
Teatimes on many recent weekends have been marked by enticing aromas drifting around neighbouring back gardens, accompanied by the clink of glasses and happy conversation.
The tradition seems to continue that this is the occasion for men to rise to their task of taking over the cooking and attempting to show off fine expertise.
The building of the fire is the first big test, with the object being to get the glowing hot charcoal ready at just the right time.
We’ve all seen the sad amateurs who try to cook too early and end up with huge sheets of flame cremating the food to smug smiles from guest chaps.
Local shops and supermarkets seem to have decent weather forecasting information and pile the shelves high with everything you need. Petrol stations are pretty good at this too and we’ve all been tempted by the bags of charcoal left just near the cash desk.
Bringing the fuel and the food home gives a warm glow to most blokes and proves that the hunter gatherer in our genes is still going strong.
If you spend a large part of your week at a desk or in meetings, it’s great to resurrect the caveman feeling by walking in with a sack of charcoal over your shoulder and a bag of raw food.
It’s not up there with slaughtering a woolly mammoth, but it’s good enough.
There are various other essential rules of back garden barbecuing which every Hartlepool man seems to know. The first is that an element of fancy dress is compulsory.
You can dress in white and wear a chef’s hat, or, better yet, wear that apron which you brought back from a sunshine holiday and looked hilarious at the time.
Another essential commandment is that nobody, but nobody, is allowed to interfere with your outdoor kitchen empire.
Topping the list is keeping food simple. Sausages and burgers are fine – steaks, fish and chops are over ambitious and showing off.
My own extra rule is that only basic and simple barbecue kit is allowed.
Any attempt to introduce gas or electric contraptions is cheating and spoils the point – you might as well just move into the kitchen.
You can do that later when the rain starts – and hand over to the lady of the house.
The best barby line still sits with my grandad who thought that outdoor cooking and indoor toilets were two steps too far.
Toned down considerably, he pointed out that, when he was a lad, you cooked inside and went to the toilet outside. He believed that open air cuisine and interior thunderboxes were both deeply unhygienic – and figures suggest that he may well have had a point.
Let’s think positive. With a fair bit of sunshine still to come, this might just be the year when we finally conquer this barby business.
Places like Australia and California may usually have an advantage in the weather stakes, but it’s looking like 2013 is the year when the Brits done good.