It’s time to dust off that old BBQ and get sizzling

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We’ve all seen those sordid little instant-barbecue tinfoil containers sold in supermarkets, but we’re not talking about them. A pal of mine, a retired builder, has a proper barbecue in one special, hallowed corner of his well-tended garden.

Every year, when it is technically summer, groups of mates stand around this elaborate creation, watching him tend its grudgingly glowing coals.

We try to avoid the clouds of choking smoke as it wafts dispiritingly through the steady drizzle, hoping someone will be brave enough to say “Let’s pack it in - it’s raining now, and it’s only going to get worse”.

But he perseveres, a man possessed. It’s no use protesting you’re a vegetarian, or agoraphobic - or even an arachnophobe - you’ve to stand there, shivering, while he does his impression of Early Man trying to cook some hard-won hunting kill.

It’s a ritual. The brick barbecue with its little chimney looks like some ancient Carthaginian or Mithraistic votive shrine, and frankly is about as much use.

Staring into the murky interior of this flagging furnace, memories of rain-lashed Scout camps of long ago come irresistably to mind.

How we laughed when some lad discovered a half-baked beetle within the festering mess on his army-style tin plate - it was all part of the fun.

But those golden years of dodgy outdoors cookery are in the past.

Now we are grown-ups, standing in the rain. Except this year - incredibly - it is sunny, and a real barbecue is suddenly possible.

Where, however, is our pal, at this pivotal juncture?

In Portugal on holiday - that’s where.