I’ve always been a cold-weather bird. Not for me the tyranny of summer, with its oppressive heat, relentless chub-rub and gangs of bullying wasps lurking around every corner. As a teenager, I wasn’t quite a goth, but preferred skulking in the shade with my indie records and cigarettes to participating in picnics and the wearing of pastel colours. Once, on a beach in southern California, I was invited to a friendly game of volleyball, to which I retorted, “I am not a summer person,” before retreating behind my Ray-Bans.
What’s obvious here is that, that particular summer, I was definitely a douchebag. What I’ve also wondered, however, is if I have a sort of reverse SAD, because I tend to limp through the hot months feeling very glum about pollen and sunburn, then perk up as soon as September turns chilly. One of my happiest holidays was at the Estonian seaside when it was 20 below freezing, and my retirement plan basically involves living beside a Nordic fjord and wearing a lot of cable knit.
But even I can’t wait for this fucking winter to end.
January alone seems to have lasted for 49 years and it hasn’t even been a good January – I’ve seen very little snow, practically no bright, crisp days. Instead, each day has been nothing-y and grey. Sometimes there has been the occasional sleet shower. Mostly, though, it’s been a real cold soggy teabag of a season – all dark and dank with horizontal rain. And really not the sort of weather conducive to manoeuvring a baby and a toddler around. So, instead, we have all stayed indoors, breeding germs.
Every time I take my kids to a playgroup or to soft play, and I watch all the snotty noses and sticky hands that abound, I know we are adding another virus to the uniqueness of our own
And we’ve done quite well, if I do say so myself. We are on, conservatively, our eighth virus since November. And, every time I take my kids to a playgroup or to soft play, and I watch all the snotty noses and sticky hands that abound, I know we are adding another virus to the uniqueness of our own.
First, there was the bout of explosive norovirus that hit me about five minutes after arriving at my best friend’s for the weekend. I’d taken the baby, it was my first trip out since the birth and my friend and I had planned a heady couple of days of putting the world to rights, with snacks. I turned up, my friend handed me a glass of wine and then I spent the next five hours in her bathroom, throwing up (and worse) while she hurried the baby in for breastfeeds in the intervals between expulsions, and I required a complete change of clothes.
Obviously, I gave the noro to my family and it seems to have acted as a gateway virus. Since then, our house has been a cesspool. Everyone looks drawn. My husband and I both have hacking coughs that rise and fall in intensity. The baby is constantly coated in something that might be drool or might be snot, and if you tip him up, it’ll all just run out of the corners of his smile and into your eyes. At least once a week, one of us will go to bed with the shivers or a stomachache or a borderline fever. In among all this, I’m constantly having to come up with activities to keep everyone occupied and – if I stop for a second – all I hear is the phlegm rattling in everyone’s chests. And, outside, the freezing rain drips and drips and drips.
And I’ve actually found myself pining for summer.
Because good weather means good times with my kids. Early-morning marches through the fields. Playing with the baby in the park while my toddler zooms around, pretending to be a plane. Watching my son’s hair turn from dark gold to corn yellow, and examining his tan lines in the bath. Skimming stones on a lake shore and trying to convince my son that they’re supposed to sink on the first bounce. Dance parties in the garden. Slightly sticky cuddles. Playdates at the seaside. Trying not to scream when my son says, “Oh look, a bee!” The baby napping in a patch of sunlight, cooing at a butterfly, rolling around in short dungarees. Just the simple joy of watching an uncoordinated toddler trying to catch every melting drip of a melted 99p cone with his tongue.
I think, all told, parenthood is turning me into a summer person, after all.