The Crushing Disappointment of 'Hot Vax Summer'

An ode to the season that never managed to get off the ground.
London, GB
illustrated by Lily Lambie-Kiernan
Fuck summer 2021
Image: Lily Lambie-Kiernan

There was every reason to believe this summer could have been an all-time classic. 

We had a major football tournament and a series of hot-people flirting on Love Island to look forward to – all we needed was an extreme heatwave, a song as divine as Dua Lipa’s “One Kiss” and for the COVID-19 pandemic to come to a polite and punctual end. Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way.


Putting aside the question of whether this summer has been “the worst ever” – because 2020 was clearly worse on a number of important metrics – it doesn’t strike me as too audacious to suggest this year might be the second most trash summer of our lives. Why wouldn’t it be? 

For all the hype about returning to normal, or having “a hot vax summer”, many of us are leaving with the feeling that summer 2021 never really happened, like a hope-fuelled mirage that slipped through our fingertips.

Regardless of what you thought about the wisdom of reducing England’s restrictions in July, the great unloosening still felt anti-climatic. When so-called “Freedom Day” arrived, teenagers – many of whom raced to clubs for the first time – were derided en-mass as “Covidiots”. Plus, the spectre of rising cases, some related to nights out, put a dampener on the whole affair. 

Since then, all-kind-of-fun has been pre-planned and restricted. Wandering around on a balmy summer evening and seeing where you end up? Not possible without booking and taking a test. With “vertical drinking” banned (AKA standing up and leaving your table to mingle), meeting people on nights out became harder and, by extension, so did getting laid. What’s more intolerably dull than being stuck talking to your platonic friends?


Even if you’ve been double-vaxxed, you’ve still had to reckon with the very slim risk of getting an illness that stands a decent chance of fucking you up – not to mention forcing your friends, flatmates or family to isolate for a week, making them hate you as a result. 

Beyond the cancelled festivals and calendar-blocked nightlife, many of the classic British summer’s other hallmarks were incredibly disappointing or tainted.

Love Island featured the least charismatic contestants since the series began, oscillating between boring and outright unpleasant to watch. Depending on your perspective, the now infamous incident when Faye screamed at Teddy was a vile instance of verbal abuse, or else a serious failure by the producers to safeguard the wellbeing of a vulnerable contestant. Either way, it was grim viewing.

As for the Euros, if people want to claim them as an example of summer 2021 being good, I will allow that. But as a Scottish man, England doing well was simply another reason this summer was terrible. 

Considering the tournament as a whole, there were clearly some exhilarating moments, like Raheem Sterling’s goal against Germany, or that guy in Leicester Square shoving a flare up his arse. But following England’s defeat in the final, the barrage of racist abuse directed at three Black players left an unpleasant taste, overshadowing any sense of triumph and collective excitement.

On top of all of that, the weather has been terrible – from the weeks in July that felt like November, to flash floods turning London stations into scenes from Titanic. If this complaint strikes you as trivial, might I introduce you “the climate crisis”? In the UK and around the world, we witnessed what felt like a major uptick in extreme weather events over the last summer months.

All combined, there’s been an apocalyptic atmosphere of dread. There’s a sense that we are hurtling towards something terrible. While it’s not too late to save ourselves, it’s increasingly clear there’s no way those in power will implement the drastic measures needed to do so, especially in a capitalist world that, by its nature, prioritises economic growth above all else. I’m glad you and your little friends had a good time at Adonis, though!  

If none of this applies to you and you had a great time, I’m truly happy for you. As for me, I’ll be taking the L on this one, and holding out hope that 2022 will finally grant us the magical, sun-drenched, redemptive summer that we were owed all along. Fuck you, Summer 2021.