Clear skies stained watercolour blue. The world backlit by sunshine. Heat suffocating the birds till dusk. Tingles on pink skin. Air indoors too thick to breathe. Salad bars scraped clean in supermarkets. Barbecues. Paddling pools.
All this in one day.
Summer has arrived in London. Finally.
The tension seeps out of me. I’m a smiley girl once again. I purr like a cat even when I’m on my own. Or perhaps especially when I’m on my own. I love the warmth. I live for summer. Maybe it’s a hangover from a childhood growing up in dusty dry heat, more likely it’s just human nature. Summer is a kind season. Aches and pains recede. The days are long and full. We take time to relax. Picnics. Pubs. Parks. Laughter.
I have a love affair with summer. I have love affairs in summer. It’s a cheeky season, that’s for sure. Why can’t summers last forever? Like they did when we were kids? Why can’t summers last until we’re so bored we’re sure we’ll die from it? Remember those days? Yesterday and not yesterday. Too many years gone by.
I went to LA last November. It was beautiful T-shirt weather the whole time. That was apparently the coldest it got. I always thought I’d like to live in a place like that, where the sun pretty much always shines. A place where you could face the morning with a smile. Endless summer. I hate the grey days of Autumn. The bleak, cold days of winter. I can be an Eeyore of a person and it’s invariably when the days get colder and darker that the black dog comes sniffing at my door. Christmas is a little bright light in the middle, but then it’s the long haul through the slush of February before spring and the promise of another summer on the way.
I spend a lot of time looking out the window and waiting for summer.
I might still go and spend six months in LA next year. But live there? No, I don’t think I could. That endless summer felt all wrong. It unsettled me. I need the seasons. We all need the seasons. As much as I might hate the autumn, get irritated with winter and barely tolerate spring, in a lot of ways they make summer more special. Like the bad times make the good time amazing. Like the memories of broken hearts make you love stronger the next time it rolls around.
More than that – and most importantly – the seasons give me the fear. They remind me of time passing. As soon as the chill creeps in and my heart tightens, I know its time to take stock. What haven’t I achieved? What didn’t I do? How much time have I wasted dicking around on Twitter and Facebook when the real things that are important to me are not to be found there. How many stories haven’t I written or read? How many friends haven’t I laughed with?
Every year that passes I need those seasons more. Every year that passes the time they signal gets more precious. Yesterday and not yesterday. 10, 20, 30 and now 40. The seasons give the fleeting years deadlines. They give my life deadlines. The seasons are a constant reminder that summers don’t last. Nothing does. Not even you. Not even me.
When I was a kid my mum used to iron while watching a video (yes, a VHS) of The Fiddler on the Roof. I still love that musical, even though it kind of makes your heart ache. There was a song in it that always made me feel both melancholy and afraid. Just like autumn does. Even without the lyrics there was something in the music that spoke of sad truths. Of time, always just out of reach, running too fast to catch. The older I get, the more the song makes me shiver a little.
But still, a touch of fear can be good for the soul.
It’s why I couldn’t live in an endless summer. I might forget that the clock was ticking. I might forget the cold winter that gets us all eventually.
Anyway, here’s the song. Have a listen. It’s beautiful and haunting. Think about your time. Take stock.
Then smile, remember you’re still gloriously alive and get out there and enjoy the sunshine.
While it lasts.