an ode to british summer (from the confines of a lockdown)

There is nothing we, here in drizzly England, cherish more than summer. Our gorgeous beloved. We long for her through the cold winter months, breathlessly counting down the days until she arrives and dazzles us once again. We ache for her warm caress on our bodies, and every time she leaves we beg; stay a little longer, don’t leave, come back, I love you.  

So I cannot help but feel it’s slightly unfair that just as she finally returns, we must stay indoors, away from her. Now, I know there are many things much worse about this pandemic than the weather. I know it’s likely that in the summer months it will spread slower and prove less fatal, and of course saving lives matters above all else. I know we are lucky that all we need to do to help is stay at home. But, just for a moment, I would like to indulge in that most British of pastimes, and complain about the weather. 

It’s bad enough normally, when it turns summer and you’re in, say, an office. You want very much to go outside. When you go to the toilet, you glance longingly out of the window and fantasise briefly about relocating your desk to the park. Or just leaving altogether. Walking out in the middle of the work day and not coming back, choosing instead to bask on a hilltop somewhere in the sun’s warm embrace. You’ll think of an excuse tomorrow and it’ll be worth it for those precious extra hours with your love.

But now most of us are at home – the place where we’re usually at leisure, choosing for ourselves how we spend the hours there. We are reshuffling our lives, routines and furniture layouts to fit this new temporary world, and it turns out that Every. Single. Thing. at home is so incredibly distracting. Don’t we have enough on? We are already trying to resist crawling back into our comfy cosy beds in the middle of the day to indulge in HBO’s 500 hours of free content (The Sopranos, The Wire! Come on…) whilst trying so very hard to only have 7 meals a day because being at home means being near the fridge and well, I have no self control. Then to top it all off, the sun comes out, teasing and tempting us outside but we cannot go.

On another note, I’ve found the sudden sunny streak quite alarming, because it feels so at odds with the reality of what is happening. Everything looks so nice, so golden, so serene, but I know it’s a lie. Pathetic fallacy (which I thought for a long time was called prophetic fallacy and tbh I still think that name is better) is defined as: “a figure of speech in which the natural world (or some part of it) is treated as though it has human emotions” but is more commonly played out via the weather directly reflecting or setting the mood.  If someone opens a door and it’s raining, they’re probably about to be unceremoniously dumped. If the same door opens on a grey street with an overcast sky, misery looms. If the door is opened once more and thunder and lightning crash in from above – shit is about to go down. You get the picture. 

Sun. Lovely, lovely sun. It normally means something good, great, wonderful is about to happen, but not now, and that’s why I’m finding it so spooky. It’s unsettling, gazing out the window at my daisy-strewn lawn, admiring the glorious cherry blossoms on the local streets during my one allocated daily run (ok, slow jog), looking up at the beautiful blue sky, and reconciling what I see with the knowledge that lives deep in the pit of me now; that every minute people are dying from this pandemic, and I can’t do anything to save them. 

And still, the sun shines on. I know that it has been this sunny before. I know that it has been this sunny for this many days in a row before. But coming now, after one season of cold and another of rain, it feels completely new. It feels record-breaking. It feels wrong. Now, to me, and it may be my tendency towards drama, or it may be my Classics background, but there’s something very divine retribution-y about all this sunshine, don’t you think? 

In Greek mythology there is something called ‘hubris’ which is when excessive pride or arrogance leads to a character’s downfall. Odysseus is perhaps the best known example, when on his voyage back home after the war in Troy, he stabbed the cyclops Polyphemus in the eye (not very nice, but Polyphemus was trying to eat him). Odysseus would have gotten away with it, but he just couldn’t help showing off (we all know one of them, amiright?). As he escaped from the island with his men, Odysseus shouted back to Polyphemus, telling him his name. This meant Polyphemus could run crying to his dad, aka Poseidon, aka god of the sea, storms, shipwrecks etc, and ensure Odysseus was suitably punished on his journey home. Obviously none of us have been going round poking any Cyclops’ in the eyes, but I find it tricky to look at the condition of the earth and the position we are in now, and not feel like someone, somewhere, is enjoying watching us as we squirm indoors, twitching to be down the park cracking open tinnies with our mates. 

Of course, if I knew anything about meteorology I could probably explain the extant weather patterns, and the explanation would have nothing to do with ancient vengeful gods and everything to do with airflow and convection currents (maybe? Idk). Maybe my unease at these seemingly endless sun-drenched days is because I am uncomfortable with the concept of coincidence. Maybe it’s because now I have too much time to think, and I’m tired and scared  of thinking about what is happening, so instead I think about the weather. Maybe instead of worrying about why it is sunny I should just accept it and be glad that it is. Because, as annoying and frustrating as it is, being mostly stuck inside in this wonderful sun, at least it’s not raining. 

Photos by Hannah Rooke (@hannahlisaphotography)

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