It’s 5 in the morning, and I’ve lain, awake for at least a half hour, listening to the wind shake the window blinds in swift, sharp attacks, and the sliding of the furniture on the roof terrace, as the wind tries to rearrange it. The kite boarders here for the week on the international circuit must be awake and anticipating a good day’s sport, after three days of waiting, of weather so still it seemed like the whole world was on tip toe, waiting for …. something.
There is an orange weather alert today, even coastal temperatures are expected to reach close to 38ºC, and whilst that’s not unusual in the mountains in August, the coast is usually a bit cooler. Anything which might provoke a fire in the tinder-dry mountains is banned – well, except for smoking, but then, that would be infringing personal liberty I guess……oops no apologies for the sarcasm.
Weird and wild dreams rode on the back of the winds, disturbing further what was already a fragile sleep. It reminded me of my childhood, living in an old farmhouse, so badly in need of repair that the fierce autumn gales which swept in from the Irish Sea invariably kept me awake, fearful of flying roof slates and breaking glass in my grandfather’s greenhouses.
Those winds kept us shivering by the hearth, the winds here and now keep me indoors with blinds drawn but windows open, so that the heat is rejected, but a breeze blows through the apartment. Last year, living in Los Cristianos I had air conditioning, and was grateful (there is less cooling breeze there), except that it proved to be a handy hiding place for cockroaches, and put a nice dent in the bank account. It isn’t the necessity here that it is in Florida, for instance. The Atlantic breezes are almost constant on this coast, you open windows, roof terrace doors and those drafts flow through your home, and bring relief on all but the hottest days.
One of things which seems odd, when you migrate from north to south in Europe, is how the old buildings have thick walls and small windows, often no windows on the side of the house which faces the sun. It seems as if this wonderful climate is being rejected. One of the reasons we northerners migrate is not only for the warmth, but for the light. English winters make me blue not because of the cold, which I can bundle myself up against, even enjoy, it’s the lack of light, those endless times when it’s necessary to have indoor lighting during the day. So we come south, we buy or rent facing the sun, we throw open our doors and windows in celebration of the luminescence and the warmth. Even now in chosing a new abode I look for light, and I do those things. Forty northern winters have left their indelible impression on me, but I am a bit wiser now. I look for blinds which can be drawn against the summer glare, and I consider that the sun’s path across the sky, and thus its appearance at my windows, changes with the seasons. Now I understand why the old houses were built that way. They keep out the worst of the summer heat and they retain the winter warmth. Walking onto one today it seems as if it has some sort of delicate air conditioning, but it’s all done by observing nature, by going along with it, not by defying it. We all know how bad for the environment air conditioning is, not to mention the health problems it encourages.
So far, in the south, the heat is dry, although that might well change. The other day the cap of calima which hovered over us trapped the escaping condensation from the manmade golf courses and gardens which have been planted in recent years, and humidity soared.
I remember hot, childhood summers, hiding under hedges and trees from the heat, lying on our backs watching the sunlight filter through branches. I remember summer Sundays waiting for the tinkle of the ice cream van, or all piling into clunky, old cars and heading inland for a picnic by a river. I remember one, particular hill which our ancient cars couldn’t climb unless everyone got out to push. Thirty years on, my kids jumped into the pool when it got too hot, and ice cream was no longer the big treat, there was no waiting, no anticipation ………. but there were a lot more flavors. The hills here are much higher and steeper than those of Lancashire, and present no problems to today’s cars or buses, but in Summer people throng to the coast, where it is a bit cooler.
It surprises me to realize that I don’t much like summer here, or at least August. When the boys were young we used to visit family and friends in England, and so missed the intense heat of high summer. It isn’t just the heat, it’s the crowds who descend from the north and inland, so there is no weekend parking; the inconveniences, like early closing of the Post Office; the fact that lawyers take the entire month as vacation; the fact that the teenage offspring of these people from the north are in the community pool shouting and screaming until after dark, sometimes until the wee, small hours, not being part of the fulltime community here, they don’t give a damn about disturbing neighbours.
Next year I plan to spend the summer somewhere cooler and quieter.