When writing, I don’t pen a word for days, weeks even, and then I get stuck in, shoulders aching in protest as I sit at the keyboard, in awkward, hunched positions, trying to keep my back straight, limiting my punctuation because I just want to get it down. If the mood to write comes, I musn’t ignore it. In the summer time though, this is near on impossible. Instead, I make endless notes and carry stuff around in my head with the plan to write it when the sun goes down. The grass outside is burnt, tinder-dry, ochre and it looks so odd compared to the usual green lushness of the British summer. This spell of weather brings with it a new way of living; one which feels surreal, and as if we are on borrowed time. It takes three weeks of doing something regularly before it becomes a habit, right? So with this summer comes the habit of throwing open the doors each morning, opening up the back of the house, as the wall is all glass, and allowing a four metres scheme of fresh air in, after a night of being closed up. Checking the garden. Feeling the warmth, choosing clothes that are cool, protective from sun. Incongruously, winter coats hang on pegs and in cupboards and it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever need them again. Oh, but we will, come October! It feels endless, this summer, like an intermission during a long show. Time to get an ice cream and watch the world go by. The summer brings with it an extension of time, of days, one that differs to the dark drawer of winter.
It’s so unusual to have such a spell of sun, it defies all normal convention in this country. We, as a nation, are so starved of this weather, we have instead a ubiquitous blanket of cloud that hangs low in our skies through most of the year. We went to Portugal and on the flight back (above the clouds) I made lists of things I need to do. My reminders list stands presently at 59. What will be lucky 60? School holidays are a hiatus that I both love and deplore. A time of flux for us before September returns, and sharpens us all up again. My list spans from essay ideas (social media and teenagers/procrastination methods when it comes to writing/why I want to befriend people who make podcasts), to items I need to source (car wash sponges/’Bitter Orange‘ by Claire Fuller/beaded necklaces perfect for tanned skin). I think of the future and the traction I will need to get from where I am now, to where I really ought to be, and I shudder. Make a fresh list. Write the book.
Writing is not for summer. Summer is for salad.
We’ve had family staying and a houseful of kids. We’ve had a makeshift pool in the garden that’s needed daily coaxing to stay clear-watered. We’ve had builders planning the next phase of renovation. We’ve had the dog groomed and hedges cut. I’ve scoured the summer sales for impractical dresses in retro patterns. A steady stream of stop, start. We’ve watched a season of ‘Ozark‘ and felt the lingering sense of ‘what next?’ when it ended. Season two is out now, I believe. The floor is littered with flip-flops and tennis rackets and half-unpacked suitcases and as ever, there’s more laundry that there ought to be. All this to the soundtrack of comings and goings. I’m aware these summers will pass me by soon; this cornucopia of family life that I am the epicentre of. What’s for dinner? At some point, in the not too distant future, term time and school holidays will be something that affects others, a distant memory to me, like night feeding a newborn, or pushing a pram.
But for now, it is where I am at. Wholeheartedly.