Given the fairly dreadful weather over the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to track down a half-remembered quotation to the effect that the worst winter ever was one summer in England.
In fact, I’ve found that the actual wording is, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” – a quotation often misattributed to Mark Twain – which doesn’t really fit the bill.
Of course, memory is very selective: it can’t really have been that bad a summer if I have photos taken of meals eaten al fresco. (Neither photo here indicates that there was any food involved, but I am sure there was!)
Another thing that contradicts the idea of bad weather is the bunch of grapes in that second photo, which was picked from the vine growing in the courtyard where we were eating: the grapes may not look very special, but they were every bit as sweet as those we grew in Spain.
Now, it’s the end of August and, despite it being a bank holiday weekend, we’ve had a couple of days of good weather and people are saying that summer is here at last.
True, it may be warm by English standards, but it’s not a patch on what summer used to mean to me.
Thinking about those hellish Iberian sun-scorched summers, I have dug out an old poem and tweaked it a little. It still needs more work, but I don’t think it’s as bad as I had remembered, so here it is in its current form:
The Water Seekers
Midday in late July: the city wavers in the heat.
We take the car and leave the gritty capital behind,
rubbish-strewn and sullen. The constant sun
dogs us across level plains and onwards as we climb
insinuating roads that hint of water.
We stop at a roadside inn: sour wine and anchovies
in vinegar. Dishwasher-scratched tumblers stick
on dark wood and flies explore the fat that sweats
from an uncovered ham. Our map shows a thin blue line,
but the mountainside is as brown and bare as the city.
Dry earth and twigs in our sandals, we tread brittle carpets
of pine; scent rises with the dust. Ants the size of June bugs
scuttle at our feet and a swallowtail flutters above our heads.
As we turn to watch, the harsh blue of the sky dazzles us:
Nature mocks our quest. Down below, the dull road
ribbons away between parched fields.
Weary and sun-spent, we turn for home. As we speed east
we round a rocky promontory and glimpse
a river, pooled between smooth stones,
where children play; we hear the splashes
of their laughter
but the obdurate road bears us onwards,
across the flattening land, through dozing villages
towards the evening. The sun flares in the mirror
one last time, then dips behind the mountains at our backs.
Our thoughts are on iced beer and twilight terraces.