“Feet up with cup of tea BUT it is bloody hot.” This was a text from my dad last Tuesday and I have had similar moans and groans from: my husband, my son, on the school run – there was even a grumble fest about the warm weather on Radio 5’s Your Call.
I have no doubt that my grandfather would have forcefully joined the chorus of complaint, as he was also not a fan of the heat. His letters while he was briefly living in Italy whine, whinge and whimper. “Oh, oh, oh, the heat! It comes round corners like an animal with windmill arms,” he wailed. “When I enter my bedroom, it stuns, thuds, throttles, spins me round by my soaking hair, lays me flat as a mat and bat-blind on my boiled and steaming bed.” He bleats on about the “rasher-frying sun” or feeling like “a sunpissed pig” and being bitten alive by flies, ants and mosquitos in one of the seasons of hell.
A poem Dylan included in a letter to T.W.Earp (Tommy) makes his feelings about the Italian summer very apparent.
In a shuttered room I roast
Like a pumpkin in a serra
And the sun like buttered toast
Drips upon the classic terra,
Upon swimming pool and pillar,
Loggia, lemon, pinecald pico,
And this quite enchanting villa
That isn’t worth a fico,
Upon terrace and frutteto
Of this almost a palazzo
Where the people talk potato
And the weather drives me pazzo-
My mum always said that her father preferred the damp and drizzle and the constantly shifting weather of coastal Wales …as did she. But her mother, Caitlin, was different. She was happiest in the summer. She adored swimming, boating, sunbathing and diving off the boathouse wall into the tide. Mum described how her whole demeanour changed. “Mother’s movements seemed disconnected to her: ineffective, graceless and uncoordinated. Instead of one movement to accomplish something, she seemed to need ten…Yet things were different when she took to the sun, stretched out on an old towel or ancient coat, cooking slowly or applying oil in wide, studied swathes on to her already perfect skin.”
So, do I relate more to my grandfather and mum and melt like an ice cream as soon as the sun comes out. Or, am I more like my sun-loving grandmother?
I am like my grandmother – a lizard in a family of polar bears. I need the sun to warm me through and make me feel alive. So on the odd occasion when the temperatures sore, while others are desperately huddled around fans with their feet soaked in buckets of ice desperately trying to get cool, I am walking or perhaps gardening. Outdoors for sure – making the most of the rare opportunity.
And why do I love the warm weather – this is why:
- The bright colours
In the warmer months the grass grows, the vines climb and gardens are in full bloom. The multi-coloured displays are abundant with life and we are spoilt for choice: petunias, sweet williams, sunflowers, daisies, dahlias and marigolds. And, to top it off, it is warm enough to sit outside with a glass of wine and enjoy it.
- Freedom from aches and pains
When it’s cold and damp, I hurt all over. My fingers are stiff, my nose and ears are white, my toes feel like they may fall off at any moment and I am cold both inside and out. However hard I try, I just never feel warm enough. But as the sun gains its strength, and shines confidently, my body becomes free of pain.
- I can go to the supermarket
Yes, online shopping is convenient and saves me time but I have another reason for avoiding the supermarket. It is the fear of the freezer and fridge aisles. I put on layers galore just for a quick trip to buy a bag of peas – yet it’s still not enough. Picking up an ice-cold bag sends me into a shiver-spin while my fingertips turn purple and I am chilled to the core. However, if it is warm outside, I‘m no longer afraid– just two minutes of delicious heat and my fingers will be rosy pink again in no time.
- I can enjoy watching my son play football
Oh, how I dread the football season. Early morning Saturday starts at the side of the pitch slowly willing my life away as the temperatures plummet and my extremities turn to ice. I am frozen to the spot – quite literally as my frail wintry body seizes up. But watching Charlie at a football tornament this weekend was like an out of body experience. I was engaged with the match and could watch my son with pride and join all with the other screeching and screaming parents encouraging the team on.
- I feel good!
I’m not sure if I have a bit of Seasonal Affected Disorder – perhaps I do – but in the summer months I just feel a million times better and far more positive.
- I am free of layers
A thermal vest and trousers, three tops, two jumpers, a jacket, coat, gloves (three pairs at least), supersonic socks, fake fur lined boats, a hood and a hat – my winter uniform. As you can imagine walking, and moving in general, in this mammoth outfit is difficult. Last week, I went for a walk in a summer dress and sandals and was as free as a bird. What bliss!
- I can go in the sea
I love the water and I love swimming in the sea but I rarely do it in this country. If I do, and I’m brave enough to strip down to my swimming costume and get in the water – I then suddenly realise that at some point I’m going to have to get out. It is just never quite warm enough to dry me off and I remain cold and damp for the rest of the afternoon, except of course, on those lovely hot, hot, hot days!
- I can visit Dad’s house
As I grew up, if I was fortunate enough to have an evening alone, I would sneakily put up the thermostat for a one off chance to toast me toes. The house would slowly begin to warm, the ice on the inside of the windows thawed and then when it was almost perfect – they came home! The thermostat was put down (to what felt like sub-zero temperatures) and the windows throughout the house were thrown open. Mum and Dad would say, “It’s an oven in here! Where do you think you are, the Sahara desert?” If only…
It’s not changed, as I’ve got older; in fact, I think it is slightly worse as Dad’s high blood pressure makes him feel the heat more. When I visit, I sleep in my dressing gown (honestly) covered with about ten blankets, coats, towels – whatever I can find – and I still feel cold. If we are lucky and undergo a warm stint, staying at Dad’s house is just about bearable – I might even risk taking a shower, or go to bed without my dressing gown on though I’ll keep the woolly socks on.
I know I’m in the minority and most of you will be polar bears, however, this blog was for all you lizards out there.
Hannah Ellis – 26th June 2017.
Hannah is a teacher, writer and consultant. You can learn more about her by visiting the website – www.lovethewords.co.uk