Monday, 12 October 2015

The passing of summer

As the northern hemisphere spins on into autumn and then winter, it can be strangely hard to recall the sensations of the past seasons. For example, it always amazes me, in the full heat of the summer, to be walking along pavements that, six months before, might have been buried deep under seemingly indestructible snow and ice. I know it happened, and yet it feels ludicrously improbable.

Similarly, as we dig out our warm sweaters and overcoats, and draw the curtains against the encroaching dark of earlier and earlier nights, it can be difficult the remember just a few short weeks ago. Back when the summer enveloped us, when shorts and a t-shirt were all you could bear to wear, and the evenings seemed to last for hours. Yet soon it will be the chill of an icy wind that nips the ears, rather than the burn of the scorching sun, and we will pull warm woollen hats down tight against the freezing air.

When I was a child, the end of the summer, and the inevitable return to the cold drudgery of school, always felt like a betrayal; as if, rather than simply having had an enjoyable time that could now be put away and left, I had been teased with a tempting yet unattainable happy place of sun and laughter, which was then cruelly taken away from me.

Those joyful summer days of childhood are still there, though, in some indefinable way, stuck in my memory with the people – parents, grandparents and aunts – who are no longer around. The taste of the sea water, and the rough embrace of a beach towel, and the ruffle of hair being dried sort of against my will; even the wince of biting on a crisp that had got dusted with sand, these sensations live on still.

Sometimes, it’s a photograph that brings the memories, or sometimes that odd salty tang of the sea, mingled with the wet smell of seaweed, and then those summer holidays of years gone by rematerialise. The splash of the tide and the friendly rasp of the sand on toes, the waving pinching arms of a freshly captured crab, and the slowly sinking sun that, for just a moment, looked like it would never completely set.

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