by Maria Ilona Moore
Summer in the UK can be as much as a handful of hot days scattered between June and August. So, when the sun comes out, we race – sun cream and beach towel in hand – to the nearest patch of sun in case we miss it. But soon, of course, we’ll complain, because that’s when the stereotype comes into its own. Even after months of moaning about a spring that feels like October, we’re still not done. Now, I love talking about the minutiae of British weather, but I have never minded the heat.
I come alive in summer. I long for it. And when it comes, however brief, I’ll be there soaking up the sun, my body relaxing in a way winter won’t allow it to. And my mind too, finally managing to find an elusive stillness as I walk home in the late evening’s half-light, warm air clinging to my bare arms, breathing in the sweet smell of a flower I don’t know the name of. I like the looseness; the feeling that’s both slow and expectant.
I like that summer is a hundred clichés bound together with the smell of barbecues and petrichor. It’s a 99 Flake and the bubblegum at the bottom of a Screwball. It’s long evenings that stretch into light mornings. It’s the cool breeze finally reaching you and it’s even that hot, beer-flavoured air that escapes onto London pavements as people spill out of pubs clutching pints. It’s the ease of feeling part of something, the acceptance that no one’s getting any work done today, and the way that day drinking leaves you feeling like you’re holding a secret.
“I like that summer is a hundred clichés bound together with the smell of barbecues and petrichor.”
And I like that every summer day is interlaced with nostalgia. With evenings spent on Hampstead Heath where, in reality, hay fever would overrule everything, but what I choose to remember is long grass tinged with golden sun rippling in the breeze. With anticipation sparked by that particular red cool-box with those familiar swooping letters spelling out ‘Coca Cola’ on the side (although it never contained the actual drink). With the way my granddad carved slabs of watermelon for us, sticky pink water dribbling over our fingers. With sandcastles and rock pools and sand everywhere. With arriving at the beach late, hoping the crowds will have died down, then driving home in the dark. With sitting in the back of a car, weighed down by the kind of tired that you only feel after a day in the sun; a kind of satisfying exhaustion that feels totally overwhelming when you’re a kid and only slightly less so at 26.
It’s not that summer solves everything, there’s just something about it that soothes me. Because it’s more than a season, more than just a tan and a barbecue. To me, it’s the comfort of coming home after time away or getting into a bed with fresh sheets. It’s family and friendship and coming together.
So, all these things come together and I breathe a sigh of relief. After months of anticipation, the warmth washes over me and I let myself feel content. Even if just for a few fleeting moments before the next grey day inevitably arrives.