Spring has, apparently, sprung. This time last week we were emerging from what seemed like an eternity of unending rain (yes, I realise that it was unending only in the sense that we’re not used to it down here. When I used to live in the UK it would have just been a normal week in April), and the ski stations had just received a ridiculously large dump of snow the day before closing.
Today I had to walk into town with SPF50 and a t-shirt rather than a singlet on, because yesterday I burned my shoulders. Last week I was still in my woolly slippers, complaining about being cold. This week I’m seriously wondering how warm the water is and already doing battle with the flies that want to come in through all the open windows. Every conversation you overhear has some variation of “Il fait chaud!” in it. And the cat’s taken to sleeping on the outside furniture after dinner rather than snuggling into a blanket on the sofa with me. It’s officially warm.
Which is fantastic – I love being warm. It means I can stop wearing shoes and socks and a hundred layers, and that I have feeling back in my toes for the first time since September. I’m not designed for cold weather. I can take it in small doses, but the novelty wears off quickly, and by the end of January I’ve retreated into a wintery sulk, surrounded by heatable toy hedgehogs and fluffy blankets, imbibing copious quantities of hot chocolate and tea.
But hot weather brings its own problems, not least the start-of-season unexpected sunburns and blisters from the first long walk in jandals (flip-flops, thongs, whatever you want to call them). For us writers and readers, a whole host of other problems present themselves, because by nature we’re not exactly well-suited to the summer.
1. Writer fuel.
Everyone knows that writers need to be kept topped up with caffeine and sugar in order to function properly. Tea and coffee are our friends, and for best results should be accompanied by generous slices of cake, or a pile of cookies (preferably home made). But summer means hot drinks aren’t everyone’s (heh) cup of tea. I know it’s a very British thing to drink tea even while sweltering in the sands of the desert or on the banks of the Nile, but I’m not British, and I go off the hot drinks pretty quickly. The best option I’ve found so far to keep my caffeine levels at a good elevation is making cold brew coffee – it’s about the only way I do drink coffee, and it both tastes wonderfully indulgent and has enough caffeine in it to set your newly defrosted toes tingling.
2. Snack issues.
I wouldn’t say I go off sweet stuff in the summer, because that’s physically impossible, but I supplement it with a load of fruit, especially watermelon. Which is decidedly healthier, but also more dangerous for the keyboard. Cookie crumbs brush off. Watermelon juice? Not so much. Then there’s the problem of chocolate melting before you can eat it properly, having to think beyond cuppa soups for lunch, and the difficulties of eating salad while reading. And that’s before we even mention the dangers of combining laptops with ice cream. It’s a risky business, summer bookishness.
3. Writing space.
I love being outdoors, but in winter it’s obviously not an issue – I’m cold enough sitting inside virtually on top of the portable heater, so outside is limited to walks and hikes. As it gets warmer, though – well, it’s just too nice to be inside. So you have to tackle the issue of finding somewhere out of the sun, but still warm, with a good spot for at least a chair and preferably a table as well. Then the cat wants to join you, so you need to have enough space for her, too. And when you’re finally settled, the kids from the apartment next door decide to sit just outside your garden playing French rap music on their phones, plus the mosquitoes that were living under the table launch their attack. After which the sun gets low enough to sneak under the shade and start both roasting you and rendering the screen impossible to read, so you move inside, then pine about wanting to be outside.
4. Writing buddies.
I love my little furry muse. I’ll forgive her no matter how many times she stomps across the keyboard and deletes things, or wakes me at five in the morning, or bites me for petting her that one second too long. But while I welcome her hot water bottle tendencies all the rest of the year, in summer it’s just not nice. First she slides around on my bare legs, so uses her claws to hold herself in place. Then she’s just so warm. By the time I kick her off she’s both shed hair everywhere and made me sweat horribly, which the hair then sticks to so I bear a startling resemblance to a sasquatch.
I feel my stance on the undesirability of shoes is both reasonable and suitably eccentric for a writer, but I’m not sure I can say the same for my summer uniform of shorts and singlets. I can’t shake the feeling that writers are best suited to dramatic greatcoats and sombre clothing, as befits the weighty thoughts they wrestle with on a daily basis (you know – dragons. Talking cats. That sort of thing). I don’t think my ancient denim shorts and cat t-shirts lend me quite the right gravitas.
As with the clothing issue, getting the bike out for a ride down to the beach and splashing about in the ocean doesn’t seem to be in quite the same league as striding across moors in the aforementioned greatcoat. And it’s very hard to be dramatic when you’re trying to eat your ice cream before it melts. I mean, I’m not saying I’m any better at being solemn and dramatic when it’s cold, either, but I do at least have a big coat.
7. Actually going out.
I went for my first beach picnic of the year last week. I mean, there were only two of us, and between us we had the salad she’d made for her lunch, plus some strawberries and breadsticks I’d picked up on the way from home, but we had it on the beach, so it counts. And it reminded me that, while I can effectively hibernate for most of the rest of the year, it’s already staying light until after 8pm. Which means there’ll be more beach picnics, and evening gatherings, and even parties, and I’m going to have to be social. And while somehow that does come to me much more easily in the summer, I’m also going to have to, you know, dress to go out. Which means toenail polish and defloofying my legs. Ugh.
I have to draw the conclusion that, as much as I adore the summer, winter really is a writer’s season. We can hibernate, grow floofy, dress dramatically, and shut the outside world out while we write. We can imbibe as much tea and keyboard-safe snacks as we want, and embrace the pale and semi-nocturnal creatures we become.
But I’d still rather be warm. 😉
How about you, lovely people? Do you prefer warm weather or cooler? What do you love or hate about the summer? Let me know below!