Temperatures have risen all over the Uk this week, with the end of what’s reported as the hottest June for years. It’s blissful, if you like heat.
I love winter, so this time of year is usually torture for me: hot, sweaty, lethargic days when I work because I have to, rather than with pleasure. For years I would scuttle to my air conditioned car, dive into work and scurry back home with no more thought of the glories that are summer thana quick peep at the pots by my door and a groan at the weather forecast. It’s not the right way to be. It breeds discontentment, creates a climate of dissatisfaction and leaves you open to wishing your life away with a continuous cry of “When will it be Autumn?”
It’s different now. I can’t say I love summer…. I will never be a strip-off-and-sunbathe sort of person, but I like parts of the season now. I’ve learned to make the best of a season that has good and bad elements, often within the same day.
Hygge has helped me with that. Taking hygge as an appreciation of the small things and a feeling of happiness, safety and comfort with or without others, I can now look at parts of summer and see the possibilities in it. Here are my favourite things about summer:
- The dusk is beautiful. When the sun goes down far enough for the shadows to come out, and the day is nearly over, the light becomes a beautiful golden hue that encourages our hearts to feel rest. There are few pleasures to compare to finding a good viewpoint and watching the sky streak with gold, red, orange and purple as night begins. Living on the west side of the UK, it’s easy for me to find a coastal area to sit in and watch. There is a point just before the sun finally vanishes behind the sea that is magically primeval. Even better with friends or family, and a few bottles of fizz (water or beer? Your choice)
- When the sky is cloudless and the sun shines in June, it is such a beautiful shade of blue. A deep, dark, periwinkle, cerulean blue that would make a perfect dress. And it is so inviting to sit beneath the shade of a tree or parasol and watch the jet planes fly over head. In the very heat of summer, or when there is little water in the air, they may leave no trails, but even on the clearest, bluest sky they often do. Their white lines may be the only contrast to the blue that you see that day.
- Summer heat invites a different style of eating, and thus a different style of entertaining. Where winter is casseroles and long, slow cooking to add warmth, summer is about short, fats and easy cooking. Grill the steak and add a salad. But the rotisserie chicken and add a salad, panfry the fish fillet and add a salad. My summer meals are quick, almost always never oven-cooked, and full of vegetables like cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, onions and celery. Inviting people to share becomes easier, because it’s no longer a question of having enough space. Open the garden door, sit on the front doorstep. Take the picnic to the park and eat together. Easier entertaining, see?
- Summer invites us to open the windows and throw the doors wide. Let the air in, try to capture any breeze passing by. With open doors and windows, we can hear the sounds that double glazing closes off from us more often than not. Annoying if next door are thrash metal fans, but mostly peaceful. I love the sound of the birds at dawn and dusk, the slight rustle of trees in a sudden breeze, and the laughter of the children from the school nearby.
- My reading becomes lighter as well. Summer is no time to settle down for a long session reading a historical biography or earnest treatise on equality. I find I grab the romances and family sagas that appeal to me. Seaside holidays, holiday romances in Greece or Italy, or a gently humorous novel. It has to be something I can pick up and put down without losing my place, because in summer my reading becomes easily distracted by the lure of outside, or the chance to walk between chapters. I’m reading The Little Cafe in Copenhagen by Julie Caplin, but I also have A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde, The Little Cornish Kitchen by Jane Linfoot and The Holiday Cottage By the Sea by Holly Martin. I also return to a perennial old favourite, Warnings Of Gales by Annie Sanders. I have the audiobook of this, and I love listening to it, not so much for the romance as for the description of the packing and homemaking done by Imogen, who spends the first hours of her holiday making the cottage into a cosy place for the families.
- Even offices get quieter in August. I miss only one thing about my teaching career: the long summer break. That period of six weeks to recharge and find my house again. Even as a mother I loved having time to de-timetable, switch off and relax. Working full time (especially in a small family firm) means that I am unlikely ever to get that break again, but I love that the quantity of calls drops off, the post gets lighter and you can tell that all over the country there is a collective sigh of relief as people finally stop and recharge. Come September, work will be busy again, people will be back, tanned (or not tanned) and ready for the grind again.
Summer is such a short season (especially in the UK) it would be silly not to make the most of it. I’ve found several books useful in enjoying the season:
The Summer House by Alison May. A deceptively short book, full of the gentlest ideas for making your house, and your season, more graceful and less ordinary.
The Kitchen Diaries I, II and III by Nigel Slater. Rather like his wonderful The Christmas Chronicles (which I will start rereading in October), his diaries talk about the changing seasons, and the way cooking changes through the year. I am loving reading his June pages, and wondering how relaxed a cook would I have to be to cook as easily and happily as him.
5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver. I know he’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I love this book which takes 5 ingredients (literally) and makes great food with them. I’ve made quite a few this year, and there’s a fair selection that have become family favourites.
Can I add my own book? Or is that shameless promotion? I don’t care. How to Hygge Your Summer is the book I wish I’d had when my children were young. I wrote it on purpose to show that hygge, that warm, happy hygge feeling, isn’t just a thing for cosy throws and candles, but a year-round feeling. It has ideas for making your house and garden a better place to enjoy hygge, and for enjoying the season whatever your age or the weather. Oh, and it has good reviews.
Hygge is all about the small pleasures in life making you happy, and my new book, Happier, is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle version. It’s all about appreciating the small pleasures in life to feel happier.
You can find details about all my books, and how to connect with me on social media on the Start Here page of my blog.