Goodbye to summer

Well, we’re nearly there. We’re nearly at the point in the year where summer is well and truly behind us. Here comes autumn, tricking us into believing it’s just a fuzzier summer only with socks and the occasional cardigan. And maybe none of this matters, because no matter what season it is, life just happens. The good bits and the bad bits all happen in whatever order they happen in, and it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in the sand on a 30 degree day or hunched into the corner of a bus stop waiting for the rain to stop drilling you into the ground, the universe doesn’t discriminate. Lovely sunny days can be catastrophic. Tempests can be lovely. There is something about summer though, isn’t there. A mood brought on by the season that is so strong we like to think it defines who we are as Australians. Be nice, wouldn’t it, to take some of the summer with you, into the next bit? This is a Public Service Announcement. Put some summer in your pocket. Take it with you wherever you’re going next. 

Take the concept of boxing day. Time stretching out like the waistband of your pants. Accidentally reading a book someone else got for Christmas and left on the couch. Eating cold left-overs. The sound of cricket coming from somewhere. No idea what day it is. An uncle, somewhere, almost out of earshot, delivering a lecture on the 1986 grand final/the problem with the health system/architecture during the Weimar Republic, the details of which may or may not be accurate. Nobody needs you to be anywhere.

Take the sound of backyard cricket with you. Someone yelling YES! Dad you’re out! A communal roar. The sound of someone clapping. An impassioned appeal. The occasional roar calling everyone to their positions: car!

Take the next bit too. The apologetic pleasure of driving through the reluctant street parade that is a neighbourhood cricket match disturbed by your approaching car. The speed and choreography of the disassembled game. A lanky kid leaning on the rescued recycling bin wicket. Someone with the bat pillowed up behind their head, hands curled over each end, gaze steady. The friendly but impatient waiting-faces as you slink through. A hand waved in thanks.

Take skinks. Perfectly named, darty little lizard wizards who, when caught by the tail, buck and bite and then, to hell with it, leave their wiggling tails behind completely.

Take animal footprints in the sand. Seagulls. Hysterical dogs. A beetle’s careful tracks from one side of a beach track to the other. 

Take that period between Christmas and New Year. Even if you don’t do Christmas: nobody knows what day it is and time slows down so that by the time you do know the date again you feel like you’ve lived on an island for years and then it turns out it’s only been three days.

In that bit, you might find yourself standing somewhere, staring at something, like a tiny leaf dangling and twisting, suspended by a spider web, and this goes on for so long, this twisting leaf dance, that you realise this sort of thing happens all the time, this leaf-twisting, and that time is, in fact, often slow and quiet and happening where you are not. Keep that bit too.

Take summer fruits. Colourful, enticing, sweet, lazy-making, really good with ice cream.

Take the smell of sunscreen. God it’s awful stuff but the smell will take you instantly to somewhere. Childhood? A suburban swimming pool? Every summer of your entire life?

Take bare feet.

Take new beginnings. An unsullied diary. No unread emails. The untouched sand on the first beach of the year.   

Take the summer certainties. Young shirtless blokes in board shorts riding shopping trolleys through the supermarkets. Skidding to a stop in their bare feet. Thumping each other on the arm. In the trolley, no matter what else: gallons of soft drink, a chicken, and an unfeasible quantity of salt and vinegar chips. Mothers saying things into phones like ask her if she wants it in a size ten. Someone with sunburn in the pattern of something they were wearing yesterday. A dog taking a teenager for a walk.

Take all of that and keep it in your pocket until June. Take it out when you get the flu and it’s freezing and you don’t remember what summer even is. Taste the fruit and the smell the sunscreen. This has been a Public Service Announcement. 

This was written for The Big Issue. Please buy The Big Issue. It’s excellent.