I don’t much like summer. I can’t get the clothes right. You’re not supposed to have hot puddings. Chocolate melts. There’s no shade on the coast path so it’s too hot if you cover up and too bright if you don’t. Going to London becomes an endurance test rather than a revival. Much as I delight in my children’s company, I also need to read and write and the school holidays don’t allow for that. Since I left school, I’ve always looked forward to September, the academic New Year when the duvet is friendly again and real life begins once more. So for now, I can forgive the rain. I’m still wearing my Icelandic knitwear around the house and embracing the Cornish mini-dress and wellies look outside (too hot for waterproof trousers, too wet for jeans or a long skirt). It’s still socially acceptable to stay inside and read and there’s still space for me and Tobias to build sand-aeroplanes on the beach during Max’s surfing lessons. I don’t mind getting wet, and the children learnt in Iceland that weather is no reason to change your plans.
The other problem with summer is that everyone is expected to have fun, which is the kind of command that makes me snarl even when there isn’t a jaw-droppingly awful government getting more awful by the hour, a global recession and people pretending that the Olympics is going to make things better. I don’t object to fun in principle, at least as long as it doesn’t make a noise or involve rules, but I refuse to do it on command. Give me a rainswept beach with a satisfactorily bracing head-wind, a stolen afternoon at the cinema with a box of chocolates I don’t have to share, my children’s company in an old-fashioned museum of local history. I do not want to dance, or watch people kicking or hitting balls or trying to do something unnecessary faster than someone else. I’d far rather be wearing a jumper and a cagoule by the sea than have sand on my skin. (Though I do, of course, enjoy the summer ban on dogs on the beach.)
I have tried, this year. We thought the children should at least see how these things work. I took Tobias to watch the Olympic flame come through Falmouth, forty-five minutes late and preceded, inexplicably, by a fleet of what we first took to be bin lorries but which turned out to be floats advertising soft drinks, mobile phones and fast food, equipped with flashing lights and gyrating women. As a friend remarked, it all seemed most incongruous in Falmouth where some hand-made vintage bunting and burly men singing shanties are the usual forms of celebration. A policeman fell very slowly off his motorbike and everyone cheered; there were more police there than anyone thought Cornwall possessed and so it would have been the perfect day for a crime-spree in West Penwith. For the Jubilee, we joined friends at a village fete where people were paying a pound each to wang wellies and throw wet sponges at men in the stocks. There was snail racing and cream teas. I found it preferable to the Olympic torch, but still incomprehensible. An American friend told me that in twenty years here, she’d never felt so foreign as she did that weekend. Neither had I.