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The Camerons have worked hard to perfect the art of chillaxin

52Summer’s lease has all too short a date — and the last week of August is the time it starts to run out. Thoughts of pinot grigio and finishing Elena Ferrante novels give way to anxiety about the lack of a career plan, dearth of school shoes and that unfinished piece of work you started in July.
Fortunately, the Prime Minister has offered leadership by making it clear that despite a refugee crisis in Calais and plunging stock markets, he intended to have his last bout of “chillaxing” — a dedication to rest and recuperation so earnest that it sounds like hard work. He has been photographed wearing a bargain £3.50 polo shirt as a staple of his holiday wardrobe. This avoids the juvenile effect of his friend Steve Hilton’s T-shirt, while sending the message that an absolute majority for the Tories and self-devouring Labour Party can make a chap feel very chilled indeed.
What is the difference between relaxing and chillaxing? The chillax-er does so self-consciously, to remind us that they are really just like the rest of us. You can relax in a pair of old jeans and moth-eaten pullover but that would not be chillaxing. Artful self-presentation is the heart of the activity, so shoes must be Birkenstocks or FitFlops. The female chillax-er can go a bit high street in high summer but it’s offset by a Mulberry bag and discreetly good jewellery, to avoid the look becoming too close to the dress code of Friday night in Romford.
A chillax essential is a squadron of equally high-powered holiday friends around the table, which should preferably be at something owned by Rick Stein. Occasional forays into chip shops can occur, with a due sense of irony. But the chillaxer also sticks to a ruthless social schedule of drinks on the terrace at 7pm, followed by a supper cooked by someone else (helping with a salad from the Ottolenghi cookbook is as hands-on as he or she gets).
The symbolic pursuit of leisure is a cross-party affair. Ed Miliband is on holiday, sporting one of those beards-of-despair, grown by chaps who have had a setback, feel grim, but want to look carefree about it. Others might call this running away from things but the beard and surfing holiday is a way of signalling that whatever mess his party has got into, it’s not his fault. That sounds more convincing in Brisbane than Birmingham.
Middle-class downtime is getting more demanding too. Wonky garden furniture has been replaced by white rattan sofas, of the kind retailed by Sam Cam’s mum via Oka — a brand for people terrified of not looking spontaneously relaxed. Barbecues are no longer rust-infested bits of kit but in glamorous colours with bespoke forks. No chillaxer has an umbrella that blows away in the English gales: we need bespoke awnings, preferably remote-controlled.
By the time the recipe for Aperol spritz is perfected and the tan even, the August bank holiday looms: the last chillax. The most hankered-for option is an invitation to someone else’s house in the shires, as the strain of holiday perfection begins to wane. There, you can meet people exactly like yourself, for what the PM’s allies call a “chatarama” — a free-flowing version of talks about how to conquer the professional  and social high ground in September. Some of us may, radically, just prefer a final bit of time off.