The End Of Summer
I’ve just woken up. It’s hot, but the air has changed. Summer is dying.
It’s not something we particularly celebrate or commemorate in any form in London, but across Europe the end of summer is a special event in the calendar. In Spain and Italy it’s marked by fireworks, bonfires and festivals. In France the beaches close, in Greece the shift workers keep moving further South until they reach Santorini for the final summer weekend.
I’m leaving Sardinia, where the fish restaurants are emptying their stock and closing their bars, even though the temperature is still in the high twenties. Mediterranean folk start wearing scarves, as if it was mid-winter. The beaches have become almost deserted in a matter of days, and towns are going back to sleep. Shirley Jackson’s short story ‘The Summer People’ catches the strangeness of this time perfectly, as a couple find that their easy life becomes a nightmarish struggle without locals to help them.
In London, although leaves fall in the parks, there’s always a residual feeling that summer disappointed everyone but was still better than what’s in store; then we recall that it’s time for the theatre, film and sports seasons, and there will be long lazy Sunday lunches with friends again.
This year it felt as if I’ve honoured the end of summer in several countries, and the sense of loss is palpable; winter brings a reality check – hard work, flus and illnesses, the intrusion of real life. I take a lingering look at the setting sun and pack my bags. In the coming months there will be two book launches, edits, rewrites, proofs, a high word-count per day, hard graft until spring. Writing never gets easier.
There’s a terrific book called ‘That Glimpse of Truth’, which features some of the world’s greatest short stories. It’s too US/UK-centric (they nearly always are) but it reminds me of the effort that must go into a single page of halfway-decent prose, of the writers who work for decades with little recognition, of the search for the elegant phrase that takes flight from the page. I think of what lies ahead in the dark winter nights. Summer has fortified and refreshed, winter will be warmed by books and friends and the protective loyalty of my partner – it won’t be long before we see green spears of life again.