Some things in life are inevitable.
Like how the Overground train doors will always just be closing as you reach the platform, and how there will almost certainly be a heatwave in London while you’re on holiday.
Oh! And the one year you manage to get tickets for the annual Film4 Summer Screen event at Somerset House, rest assured: there will be torrential rain all day.
“So British” read the caption on the weekend’s photos; my friends and I huddled together under a blanket of plastic ponchos, picnic laid out on bin liner clad picnic blankets clutching cups of Irish coffee.
Nevertheless, we braved the downpours and got stuck in to Saturday night’s double bill: the brilliant Sexy Beast followed by 100 minutes of Ryan Gosling in Drive. And you know what? Biblical deluge or shine, I’d happily do it all again next year.
So here are some tips if you’re heading to Somerset House to watch a film in the middle of the summer’s worst rain storm.
Arrive early to get a good spot. Preferably not behind the people who have built a sizable (but nevertheless impressive) tent structure out of umbrellas; all of which will fly backwards into your face when a gust of wind hits.
Spend £5 on sub-standard plastic ponchos from the Pound Shop in an array of slightly embarrassing colours before you arrive. Happily, the folk at Somerset House supplied us with free plastic macs complete with a “Film4” logo on the back, so everyone knew we’d spent £18 to watch a film in the rain. That being said, the poncho not only makes for a water repelling device, but a fashionable yet functional souvenir, too.
Bring booze – lots of booze – but not in cans or glass containers. In lieu of decanted Lambrini, we recommend a selection of Your Mate’s Finest Homemade Punch in an Evian bottle (ingredients: everything), several litres of ready mixed G&T and of course, a flask of coffee mixed with Baileys to warm the cockles.
Forget to bring an entire pack of bin liners. Wrap your pillows in them. Lay them beneath your picnic blanket. Use them as a sleeping bag. Fashion them into a hat. Wear them on your feet. Put them everywhere. Remember, when Ryan Gosling is on the screen, no one will judge you for using kitchen basics to keep dry.
Bring a huge fleecey blanket to wrap yourself in. The sofa throw will do nicely. Failing that, bring a sleeping bag. We were seriously jealous of the couple in front of us who had one, slightly less so when they wrung it out at the end and expelled an entire cloud’s worth of rain onto the floor. But that’s where the bin bags come in. See? Always thinking.
Whinge and go home mid-way, or not turn up at all because of the weather. Trust me – the films will be excellent. The company will be better still. There are hand dryers in the loos if you get really wet. But you will have fun, watch films in an entirely beautiful surroundings of Somerset House, get a bit drunk, and almost certainly end up adding the experience to the list of things to do in the summer* in London.
*where summer means inevitable rain.
If you’re going this year and want more tips, take a look at my guide on what to bring to Somerset House.