Friday, September 05, 2008

The turning of the year

Most of my life has followed the rhythms of the academic year, which has always meant a new beginning in September. In Dubai, we'd be back at work in the final days of August, but the kids didn't come back til September, and that was what mattered.

I remember being in England one summer, as August rolled into September, staying I think with my brother and his family when they lived near Walthamstow Marshes in London. The summer leaf fall was just changing into something different: the air cooler, the sky paler, and the trees brightening up for their final fling before winter. London in early Autumn - gorgeous. I hated leaving at that precise all-to-come moment, even though back in Dubai it would soon be the long soothing growing season, all greenery and flowers, and days when you could walk and sit out, and sociable evenings with friends.

Here, my academic year runs from October to late June, and I elected to teach July and August Summer courses and have September off this year: to go WWOOFing certainly, but also simply for the pleasure of having time to enjoy the gentler weather. Spain is big enough to have three distinct climates: Mediterranean along the south and east coasts, Atlantic up north, and Continental here in the middle. Here within the protective environs of the city, I can't seriously say we've had the proverbial "tres meses de invierno y nueve de infierno" (three months of winter and nine months of hell) this year, but though winter was mild (after a frighteningly cold November) and we only had two weeks of 40C right at the start of August, it's still too hot for me, and I've spent almost as much time indoors wilting as I did in Dubai: not what I returned to Europe for!

Oh, but the terrace....... all the summer evenings, and nights, and early mornings up here with the sky, the greenery (and whitery and reddery and bluery and yellery) and some protection from the noise of the .22/7 joy-of-living party down in the square...... For some, play finishes shortly after 7.30, or 8.30. I'm not jealous - more bemused.

For others, work started in time for them to deliver newspapers to the kiosk at 6, and fruit and veg to half the barrio from 7. Definitely not jealous......

........but summer's nearly over, and my terrace nights are numbered - 3, 2, 1, to be precise, before I head off for a fortnight.

While I was one of the few people who was still able to sleep most nights once summer kicked in in late June (very late June), up here with a sheet and any hint of breeze that could be bothered to stir; in the last couple of weeks it's been summer pyjamas, then a duvet for the small hours, then winter pyjamas and a duvet all night; and a week ago I woke up because my hands and feet felt like blocks of ice! I definitely ain't doing this in the last week of the month!

Also, we have a new neighbour, so it's time to come inside!

While Hurricane Gustav has been doing its worst in the American South, and Dad says its been blowing a gale in northern England (Could I hear it when we were talking on Skype the other day?) it's also been gusting up here. Is it possible for it to be windy everywhere at once? I notice because - well - the willow flails , the canopy flaps, everything rattles and I'm not looking forward to having something come down on my head - and because there's a whopping great crane swinging about, mounted in the next street where they're building a new mercado, and there's a man up there in that little tin box......

The clouds have been moving in as well. At first there were just a few bits of fluff on the morning horizon, that turned into dirty reddish curds when the sun poked them, then disappeared in a huff for the rest of the day. But every day there are more, massing in layers and swathes and heaps of grey and white and purple, and all the in-between colours that clouds do so well. This morning, everything behind me was gilded and rosy, but opposite, where the sun was supposed to be putting in an appearance, there was only a streak of molten red peering out from under a thick wad of grey.

The days are cooler - they must be, given that we're now watering every two days instead of twice a day - something you notice when you've got four 5L plastic bottles, and two of 2L, and it usually takes a complete set, carried from bathroom to terrace, twice, to keep everything in the garden lovely. Of course it was worth it (except for the sodding prima donna tomatoes!). But I don't think we'll be sorry to lose that little routine for a while! Wherever we eventually settle, the availability and proper management of water is going to be paramount.

In the meantime, we're advised that it will rain tomorrow, and I believe it.

So, we've done all right in our first year here,

but it would be really nice if I could work out where I go wrong with herbs........

I'm feeling quite melancholy. I don't know why. Probably because change is coming - a whole new set of students, classes and colleagues in a few weeks; a new and bigger flat in a few months - and as the years go by, I find I am less and less enthusiastic about change, even when I know it's for the better.

I expect a need a holiday, and some dirt under my fingernails.


nzm said...

Flippin' 'eck - it's feast or famine around this blog.

Nothing for months and then a flood!

Enjoy your WWOOFing. My bro and his partner have had a WOOFer at their B&B in Nelson, NZ, helping them out. I don't know how that worked because a B&B isn't exactly an organic farm.

Kate Walker said...

Me too with the melancholy - wish we could have had that 'more than an hour grabbed in the middle of everything' time. Maybe next year.

Enjoy the WWOOFing and relax