Caribbean musings #2 Is an endless summer really so sweet?
It's hot again. 31 degrees and very humid. The white wooden shuttered doors are flung open to reveal bright blue sky framed with yellow-green plams. The tropical midday sun casts white blocks of light on the verandah floor. There is nothing unusual about this day. But, having just come back to Barabdos from the UK, it does feel unusual. Strange even, that it's summer now in April. And has been since our arrival 20 months ago.
Living in the tropics, in an endless summer, has taken some getting used to. We landed in August 2013 from an unusually hot British summer. At first it was pure joy to wake only to bright sunlight streaming through the curtains. Every day felt like the sort of holiday we'd only ever dreamed of. But slowly, as the weeks and months passed by, I longed for the coolness of Autumn. My constitution was attuned, not only to the way British weather changes daily with annoying frequency, but to a deep, visceral expectation of summer coming to a close as the darkness of October (usually) approaches.
I missed dew on the morning grass and thought of the Bramley apple tree in our back garden and the way I'd send Lila onto the soggy grass to collect windfalls for crumbles and compote. As a child I'd stand with my sisters in the brambles along our grandparent's garden fence pulling tiny thorns from my thumbs and dropping fat blackberries into pudding bowls. It was our September ritual.
So, yes, I felt a bit sad, a bit homesick. Of course I couldn't tell anyone at home, how could I? My Instagram comments said it all: 'shame we can't all live in paradise,' and 'enough perfect weather thanks'. And they were right. This was the kind of climate that dreams were made of. My life was all soft sea breezes and morning sunlight. The daily forecast sounded more like a holiday cocktail list than a weather update. But rather than drifting around whimsically in a kaftan, I struggled to exist in anything other than underwear around the house. And it just wasn't practical to do the school pick up in my bra and knickers - even if they did look a bit like a bikini. Every single item of clothing I owned (and had picked up in the Zara summer sale before we left the UK) contained some percentage of the evil, sweat inducing fabric, polyester. I was so hot it wasn't funny.
Gradually, I adapted to the humidity (usually around 80 per cent). I did things more slowly. I made sure that the first thing I did before I made breakfast for the children, or sat down at my laptop, was turn the fan on. I learned how to dress in the heat and replaced all of my polyster with linen, rayon and light cotton. I ate differently - lightly. I enoyed the fact that I didn't have to struggle to get the kids into boots, hats and scarves or pull tiny gloves onto my toddler's fingers (only to have them pulled off again) before rushing out the door every morning.
When our first lot of visitors arrived (from a bleak British February) it was like experiencing the arrival of summer - with all it's abundent pleasure - once more. And as we sat on the verandah enjoying iced G&T's, suddenly it all seemed so easy.
John Steinbeck might have said, 'What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?' but for now - when it comes to the damp cold, the kind that gets right into your bones - ignorance is bliss.