It might be cloudy and more humid than usual, but there is no doubt that summer is upon us. The schools have only days of term time left, but already the complex pool here is chocka in the afternoons, childish hoots and hollers echo and parental bodies tan themselves alongside. It would take an actual rain storm to shift them now that summer’s here. Despite warm weather since I moved here in February, the pool was hardly used until a few weeks ago.
It might seem odd to anyone who hasn’t lived in, what is described as, ‘a year-round, good climate’, that we do note a difference between summer and winter. In fact, winter temperatures can soar too, but with shorter days the heat soon disperses, even before the sun sinks into the ocean. In summer on the night-time coast or early morning, it’s cool outdoors, but buildings retain the heat, and sleep can be elusive. It will be a few weeks before we get to that stage, but summer is beginning to stake its claim.
The past couple of weekends it’s been difficult to park outside my building, thank goodness for my garage parking, not only for this reason, but to keep the car cool too. In addition to vacationers with hire cars, there are Canarian- registered cars. For years now well-off people from the north of the island have been investing in property in the south. Some are, simply, investments, but others have bought as second homes, so that the comparative quiet of weekdays is now punctuated by weekend noise. This isn’t brilliant construction, and I have a background of running water, a hum from television and conversation and the throb of the elevator rising and descending at all hours.
It’s not that bad, and it’s what you get for living in a resort like El Médano, even though it isn’t a “tourist” resort in the same sense as its flashier neighbours. It seems natural to me, having been brought up in an English seaside town, to think in terms of things being seasonal.
In Blackpool we used to avoid the town on a Saturday if we could, because that was “changeover” day and the streets bustled with laden cars struggling to get out of town, whilst newcomers circled, with glazed expressions, looking for parking spaces, and laundry services and other deliveries parked ad lib, wherever they could. The season there was short – from the schools breaking up early July to the reopening of their doors the first week of September, basically, with odd flurries in between, at Easter and Whitsuntide (as was). Blackpool had the original extended holiday time for the Illuminations, but that’s another story entirely, and was a weekend thing.
There was a local saying, “Blackpool sleeps while Oldham Wakes”, “while” in this context meaning “until”. For decades, starting in the early 19th Century, Blackpool was the Torremolinos of its day to the hundreds of workers from the cotton mills of industrial Lancashire, and wool mills of Yorkshire, and later from industrial Scottish cities, like Glasgow.
The Wakes Weeks were probably originally religious holidays, but changed to become workers’ holidays as the country industrialized and life changed. Each town had its allotted weeks, and Oldham, near Manchester kicked the season off in mid June. I remember between Easter and Oldham Wakes there would be false starts, if there was good weather. A quick heatwave in May would have traders and landladies rubbing their hands in glee, but it would fall off again as the weather cooled, which always set off a round of moans and whinges – la plus ça change!
From the time I became aware of the Wakes Weeks in the 1950s I also became aware that that was the time to avoid going into town. In those days, as they had done for a century or so, people came by train, and humped their luggage from the impressive, main Central Station to the boarding houses nearby. Local lads would earn their pocket money with homemade carts, pulling the newcomers’ luggage from the station to their destination.
I lived on the very edge of the town, more or less in the country, my granddad had a market garden, around two or three acres from memory, so summers were spent outdoors, with only occasional trips to the seaside. I suppose I saw far less of the famous golden sands than the average kid from Blackburn or Burnley in fact. There was long grass to hide in; a tree to climb; dried-up ditches which followed the line of the hedgerows in which to make dens, and smell the sweet elder and hawthorn flowers; there were the most pungent, fresh tomatoes to pick from the vine, and in the Fall gooseberries and blackberries. Our neighbour grew peas, and sometimes we were allowed to go pick some. There is nothing like the taste of freshly popped peas, and on the odd occasions in recent years I’ve tasted them I’ve been instantly transported back to happy times.
It seems to me now that it never rained in summer back then. I don’t know if it did or not. The one thing I do know is that we had a lot of freedom. We could disappear “down the field” (our family way of saying somewhere on the land, away from the house) after breakfast and not return until our stomachs began to growl at lunchtime, and nothing was said, and no-one worried. It seems to me too that we had overactive imaginations by the standards of today’s kids. We invented games, we were inspired by tv once it arrived in 1953, not enslaved to it, or we would act out scenes from books. We didn’t have an awful lot in the way of toys, I don’t think, it was post WW2, and the menfolk were all getting back into the swing of normal work, making up for lost time and eking out their wages, but we had boxes and wood, grass and flowers which transformed by our imaginations became swords or dens, stages or cars. I don’t have a doubt, looking back, that we were the richer for it.
This was the kind of childhood I dreamed of for my kids, and moving to Tenerife gave them this in part. It was much safer back then, and although we did have a pool, they spent hours and hours across the road on the “desert” hiking, exploring and fighting their wars, and when we went to the beach, we mostly avoided the main ones and sought out little bays with rock pools and scope for the imagination.
I have much more nostalgia for my childhood than I expected I would have, but I know that life evolves and changes, I just hope that when my children look back they will have the same feeling.