English Summer-time and the Weather is Stupid!
Last week we had several days of wonderful sunshine, in fact several days where it got progressively warmer and we had a BBQ-worthy weekend. And as Aussies abroad that was what we did – burnt some snags on a patio sized Webber. And enjoyed them very much. It wasn’t quite home, it wasn’t thin beef BBQ sausages, there wasn’t a keg of Cascade somewhere with blokes gathered around it, but there was tomato sauce and salad and fresh rolls and the odd drink (Pimm’s I confess: something British that I do quite like).
This week we’ve had temper tantrums from the Gods of weather – sunshine and rain, heavy cooling rain. It’s just like growing up in Hobart: you never know what to wear, you need your brolly with you every day; you’re too hot or too cold, never, like Goldilocks porridge, just right. It was one of the best things about living in the NT for so many years, the utter reliability of the weather. Hot and dry for half the year, hot and wet for the other half. Brilliant.
Does the warm weather cheer people up, does it make you feel better? The moment the sun pops out for an extended period here people descend on the parks and beaches in droves and yes, they do parade their whiter than white, paler than pale flesh far too early and so suffer the ensuing pinkness for several days. Picnics in the parks are one thing, but bathers and exposed sun-scared flesh as well? Really…
The sunshine here reminds me of the stereo-typical trope of the English and their mania for talking about the weather. Indeed the man at my local shop where I buy my weekend papers and croissants engaged me on the weather this morning. It’s a step up from nodding acknowledgement, to ‘good mornings’ to today’s: ‘it’s a bit odd this weather we’re having’. Face-book fills up with comments about the warmth, just as it does about the rain and the snow when it happens. It is true, the English do love a chat about the weather, about as much as they love a queue.
The sunshine and warmth does not cheer up the kiddies. Oh, no: it simply gives them another reason to moan and complain about life, and then if it’s Friday afternoon and you’re fed up and know you’re going to fail your GCSE’s it gives you an even better excuse to sleep. They sit in class, sweating, fanning themselves with hand-fashioned paper fans, guzzling their water, moaning – we can’t work, it’s too hot, open the windows, Miss, how can you stand it? I look at them with amusement and faint pity and think, and sometimes say: Well, my dears, twenty years in the tropics gives you a sort of immunity – a tolerance for heat, no, in fact it gives you a love of heat and warmth, and anyway, this is NOT hot. And indeed it is not, it is only 23 degrees, hardly heat-wave, hardly fainting in the street from heat-exhaustion. But the English, especially the teenage English, love a good moan.
I have mixed feelings on the sunshine, on summer creeping in, on the longer days. It is lovely when it warms, when the evil icy tendrils of winter recede, when the short days lengthen and the darkness evaporates. It’s nice to go to work and come home in the light. It does lighten one’s spirit.
Summer is lovely. It’s wonderful in our old farmer’s cottage in France, where it really warms up and the countryside hums with the sounds of summer, of crickets and cows and weekend markets and street cafes for lunch; where I can spend all day in our walled garden reading in the sun, doing virtually nothing for as long as I want. Summer is a good way to end the school year as the weather warms and even returning to the fray as summer fades is fine too – you begin in a happy place – provided your exam results were good enough!
But, oh does the warm weather make me homesick! Indeed, ironically, far more than the winter. Come summer and I just want to go home, to be in my house, on my river-bank, having BBQ’s on my verandah, gazing on the water, appreciating our gardens, enjoying the fading light of the long summer day sparkle on the river; visiting my daughter on the Huon. Yes, summer does my head in – it’s always been my favourite season and now it is the season that tortures my soul, bringing joy as the light and warm fill my spirit, but a wistful sadness that I am not where I want to be, that I am not at home.(Images from Private Collection)