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.

6 comments on “The End Of Summer”

  1. Bangbang!! says:

    A strange time of year indeed. I always whinge in the summer when it’s too hot. ‘It burns, it burns, my precious!’ Now, I would love to feel a bit of heat, though for the time of year it’s quite nice. For once I have a decent social calendar in October, my best friend is strutting her stuff in a local production of A Chorus Line, my best mate is 50 and my birthday is on Halloween. I love Christmas and so I cheer myself up by choosing presents and thinking of at least one way I can I can make my wife’s Xmas a bit special. Soppy sod!

    Let’s see what Winter brings. I work for a tree surgeon so let’s hope it’s high winds!

  2. Jo W says:

    Good grief! I thought I looked a bit ropey this morning,but that photo wins hands down! You must have had a hell of a night!

  3. chris hughes says:

    Just enjoying the low autumnal light of a perfect September afternoon – and comforting myself with the thought of lots of new books to read during the winter!

  4. Helen Martin says:

    We’re having the most beautiful autumn, sunny days, colour appearing in the trees and dry leaves underfoot. I’m still not wearing a jacket, just a sweater and loving every minute of it, although there was thin fog this morning so I would estimate we haven’t long before we’re under rain clouds.

  5. jan says:

    dear god thats a scary picture i once made a guy that looked very much like that photo………..u should try growing a goatee beard and looking for a bonfire

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    Just got back from Portugal, some days were over 30 degrees, even the locals wore t-shirts, lovely walks on the beach, swimming in the sea, my 3 year loved it, and it was fun to be with my in-laws, but that feeling things were coming to an end on the Algarve were there, but it doesn’t close quite as it used to there, as there are lots of retired expats and there is golf, the season lingers and closes in dribs and drabs. From England (and Northern Europe to a lesser extent) people go for the golf, on the flight back I could over hear a couple of blokes, new friends for the flight; they discussed visits, out of season and cheapest, October and November were agreed as the best times to go, February is also recommended warm but humid for us Brits. It’s nice to know golf has it’s uses in helping Portugal’s economy. Wonder how their voting went.


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