Summer is the only period of time that I define by the season. Autumn, Winter and Spring just seem to melt into one another, like three, barely definable and ugly globules of time that infect 9 months of the year with monotony and a plodding misery that makes its way through the drizzle, dreaming of the summer and preparing for its next visit. This way of thinking is a peculiarly British outlook, or Northern European perhaps. Certainly the dreary cynicism and inability to smile that have come to define our grey national character certainly don’t tend to be reflected in equatorial states. But then the Irish manage to live in geographically similar conditions and retain a national image of jovial, up-beat chirpiness. Maybe it’s the Guinness. But I digress. So while 75% of my memories are given a time stamp that involves a month or even a full date on the odd occasion, I’ll happily reminisce about sunnier times with the perhaps twee reference of “Summer 2003” or “The summer before I left school”
Of course the summers of my youth were different to the summers of my teenage years and early twenties which in turn differed from the summers of what I have begrudgingly begun to accept as my adult life. In my childhood summer was strictly defined as the six weeks during which one did not have to endure the agonising suffering that was full time education and could instead indulge in far more productive pursuits like playing video games or kicking footballs over fences and then shame facedly ringing doorbells to request their safe return. Summer was a time of few responsibilities, worries or obligations and the only infringement upon the utopia of those six weeks (which back then seemed to stretch for years on end) was the oppressive rules of the constant enemy, the parents, and the occasional sour faced, bitter old man who believed that his garden should serve as a graveyard for young children’s stray footballs.
The summer years of my teenage years and beyond were similarly carefree and eagerly anticipated, though perhaps lacking in some of the child-like innocence and naivety of previous years. Gone was the schoolboy activities of younger days, now replaced with summers of music festivals, cans of cider in the local park and of course the constant teenage pursuit of drugs and sex. Summer now meant that girls wore less clothes and camping in a field for 5 days getting nicely wasted and listening to music was a climactic possibility. Once again, the magical season had delivered the kind of wonder and seemingly unlimited potential that the other seasons just never managed to produce.
And as I get older still (which, in the week my girlfriend found my first grey hair is a touchy subject) I discover the wonders of summer can come with me as I dip a toe into the ocean of maturity. Now summer has come to represent a more adult freedom from responsibility, one that encourages travel to far off lands and time for introspection and contemplation. Curiously, when one arrives in these far off lands it’s often not summer at all, but winter, which can be most disappointing for a few nanoseconds before you realise you’re on an adventure of amazing potential and, though it may not be showing its sunny face, summer has delivered once again.
You often get some bizarre responses to the question “what is your favourite season?”. Usually this kind of a question is only thrown out in a desperate attempt to get to know someone, either as a last ditch attempt to prevent small talk dissipating into agonising silence or, if you’re really unfortunate, as a pre set question in some kind of awful ice breaking exercise that makes up part of that fate worse than death – a corporate team building event. In these situations it’s perhaps understandable that we attempt to cough up an answer that distinguishes us from the crowd, summer seems so obvious an answer. But it’s obvious for a reason, summertime is the best time of year – light until late, warm all the time. Bright, light and sunny. Even a determined cynic and certified grumpy bastard such as myself can’t help but walk around with the vaguest hint of a smile upon his face and declare that things are “not bad” (which, by my own standards, is most people’s equivalent of running around naked, painted in the colours of nature and screaming “I LOVE YOU” at passing strangers and roadsigns.)
If you were hoping for some king of deep insight or even defined point of this post I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. Call it a celebration of the season, call it a sunshine-inspired piece of happiness, call it the delusional ramblings of an Englishman who’s spent too long accompanying mad dogs into midday sun, but take it for what it is, open the window, let the light and warm breeze in and enjoy the summer. I fully expect death threats from hayfever sufferers.