Opinion: When the stiff upper lip curls into a grin

Peter Cardy, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Relief

Reading my last couple of dozen columns, I realised that I come across like an old curmudgeon - nothing's ever good enough, why can't we do better, the charity sector isn't what it was and so on. It's all entirely justified, of course, but the season of occasional sunshine and perpetual strawberries offers an excuse to enjoy life - although I know it can't last.

So it's good to let my hair down and join in some midsummer madness.

There can be few more deeply dippy events than Macmillan Dog Day, on which, for a small fee, dog owners can enter their pooches in classes such as Dog With The Waggiest Tail or Dog Looking Most Like Its Owner, and simply revel in its eccentricity.

The London version is attended by lots of ultra-smart people, who seem to enjoy sending themselves up, and people like me, who enjoy watching them doing it and then reading about it in Hello magazine afterwards.

Even more British is the Parliamentary Tug of War, in which the Lords try to pull the Commons into the Thames on the end of a long rope. Their Lordships complain that, after the loss of the hereditary peers, there aren't enough roast beef-fed scions of the aristocracy left to give them the necessary mass, so they mostly lose. Also spitting on their hands in the 'Hacks vs Reptiles' contest are print and broadcast journalists, in which the allegiance of John Pienaar is invariably decisive. The event is hosted by Jeremy Vine, the finest eyebrows on radio.

It's also fun to go to summer fetes in gardens and fields and remember that, while I worry about the finer points of governance and our charitable heritage, the ageless squabbles are still taking place about whether the pickled onions go on the bottle stall or the bring-and-buy.

For three summer days, in one of the most sparsely populated parts of the UK, I visit people affected by cancer and our contrasting hi-tech services and personal support projects designed to make their experience more tolerable. Great institutions reappear: the lunchtime 'finger buffet' for volunteers who don't like to be out late; and the 'fork supper' for the hardier souls.

Although there may be tensions underneath, the objective of making life better overrides all that. Summer is a good time to remember that, behind the British stiff upper lip, we really do care about each other.

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