Part 5: Summer
Believe me when I say that we did not move out here for the
weather, at least not for the weather in summer. The word summer has almost magical connotations for people in Britain: long summer
holidays for the kids, a fortnight in the sun for the grown ups, strawberries and cream, Wimbledon, Pimms number 1 and even summer
Rugby League. In Extremadura it means three months of unrelenting heat: three months of being drenched in your own sweat, three months during which sleep becomes a rare commodity.
I should, before I go on, just explain something about our house. It is at least a hundred and fifty years old, and may go back even further than that. This means that the walls are very thick indeed. Ah yes, they knew how to build ´em in those days. And it is true that the thick walls do provide excellent insulation. But even the best insulated house in the world will heat up if it the temperature outside hits 40º for weeks on end. So the house bakes slowly under the unrelenting sun, until the temperature inside is somewhere around 32º. This, momentarily at least, feels like a blessed relief, as you enter the house at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. But being so well insulated means that it cools down very slowly. So when, at around half past midnight, the temperature outside has dropped off to a cool 25º or so, the house is still stubbornly hanging on to its 32º, and you try sleeping in that.
For many people summer is frequently associated with weight loss. Here in the Big Ex, the reverse is true. How can you resist an ice-cold beer served in a frosted glass, in an air-conditioned bar? The answer is that I can’t. So my calorie intake actually rises during the summer, as I am only very rarely affected by the loss of appetite that supposedly comes with high temperatures. In the winter, spring and autumn, we spend at least four hours per weekend walking in the nearby natural park. And during the week we often go for a quick lap of the village, which takes about 45 minutes. In the summer, the only time that these modest feats would be even remotely feasible, would be at six o’clock in the morning: just when we are finally getting to sleep after a night’s tossing and turning on a sweat soaked bed. Even the birds don’t like summer in Extremadura. Last year in Mérida, it was so hot in August, that the city’s stork population all flew back to Africa to get a break from the heat.
Speaking of migration. Our visitors, like migratory birds, usually tend to come in autumn and spring. I think we have established that only lunatics would consider a summer visit. They ask us what
clothes they should bring, and we invariably counsel them to bring clothes for every climatic eventuality. Failing that multiple layers that can be stripped off as the day warms up are often a good bet.
The title above is “Summer” and so it is to summer that I should return, for I am sure that without the summer’s heat, we wouldn’t have perfect October days; days when it hits 25º and stays there just long enough for you to host a perfect barbecue, with half the invitees in shorts and almost everybody in short-sleeved shirts. Without the harsh summers we wouldn’t get glorious days in February, when you can sit outside one of the village’s two bars, and top up your tan. Neither would we get
Christmas days when we can have Buck’s Fizz made with the juice from our own oranges, and local Cava of course.
Articles in the series:
Introduction to Pete's Tale
Part 1: Village Life
Part 2: Bichos
Part 3: A Two-Bar Town
Part 4: Fruit and Veg
Part 5: Summer
Part 6: Politics
Part 7: Noise
Part 8: Our natural park
Part 9: New Year's Eve
Part 10: Timetables
Part 11: The Land Where the Pig is King
Part 12: How Not to Buy a House
Part 13: That First Winter
Part 14: The Extremeño Spring
Part 15: To be a Pilgrim
Part 16: A Change is Coming
Part 17: Wine Talk
Part 18: Free For All
Part 19: How Do You Spell Asparagus?
Part 20: Designer Peas