Sunday 20 October 2019

First person... Why I hate summer

Festivals and the beach might be most people's idea of a good time, but Donal Lynch is traumatised by all the sunshiny seasonal fun

Stock picture
Stock picture

It will all be over soon. That's what I keep telling myself, around now. In another few weeks, the evenings will draw in and summer can leave me alone again. No more festival braggarts posting pictures of their tragic wristbands on social media.

No more having to wear shorts - an item of clothing that no Irishman alive can really pull off. No more gasps at the stripy perfection of my farmer's tan. No more wading through slightly catatonic Americans to get from one end of Grafton Street to the other. No more fantasies of committing mass murder of Spanish students if they don't keep their voices down on the bus. Autumn brings in its misty wake better telly, better clothes and the comfortingly nocturnal rhythms of the urban homosexual.

But, in the meantime, there is a lot of so-called fun to be had. I think everything flows from the desperate, frantic use of the scant few days of sun we receive over the year.

In my head, there's a little voice that still demands I 'get out and play' - even if the adult version means sitting in traffic in a small Irish town that has been transformed into a car park for the bank holiday. Or standing in some field in the country, wondering how even Bruce Springsteen had the balls to call this shed a VIP section.

Summer, for me, is a bit like childhood. People keep telling you you'll look back on it as the time of your life, when secretly you're presuming that it must get better than this.

Of course, my parents' generation were sure that being outside was a good idea, because summer was so much simpler in their day. They could baste themselves in olive oil - in lieu of slathering themselves in SPF - and not worry about skin cancer, which hadn't been invented yet, or ending up looking like Donatella Versace.

They could blithely make their own shorts out of old jeans, and not concern themselves at whether the world was really ready for an asymmetric hairy-leg look. They didn't have to deal with other people's social-media campaigns, with their endless filtered selfies and pictures of clinking glasses. They had actual holidays, which lasted a month, instead of the maximum two weeks that the modern shared-desk classes have to work with.

For my generation, the last good summer is the one where you're waiting tables for beer money and drinking the beer in a field.

We're not allowed to admit this, of course. Everyone from Morrissey to George Eliot has written about how loathsome summer is, but the rest of us all have to pretend it's one long Centra ad of picnics on softly lit evenings.

People will put up with you saying you can't stand the enforced jollity of Christmas, but if you even hint you're actually not mad about soggy barbecues, you'll now be told you might have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This, as far as I can work out, is kind of like being a Goth teenager, in spirit, if not in eyeliner. It medicalises a perfectly reasonable hatred of summer, placing the blame on the individual rather than the bank-holiday traffic jams and crowded airports. I don't mind being mad or bad, but SAD sounds as wet as a bank holiday in Galway.

Summer holidays abroad were once a bit of a respite from our indigenous August, but somewhere along the line, the budget airlines and terrorist hysteria made getting there about as relaxing as the journey cattle take to the abattoir. And when you get back, you realise there was no holiday for you, only deferred work, which will now take you an extra week to wade through.

I console myself that the worst is almost over. Traditionally, Wimbledon has been my midsummer cue to sequester myself indoors, so I can enjoy summer my own way: with a cold drink and the television on, in an atmosphere of Havisham gloom. Now and then I might take a sneaky peek through the curtains, but I don't emerge until I see the first cardigan of the season.

Sunday Independent

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