Yes, I am aware that summer isn’t really over, but for those of us who live in Spain September 1st marks a cutting off point between the perils of the unbearable heat and the hope of something more manageable. It also means that the holidaymakers go home and we can once again enjoy the benefits of living in a place that, for most of the year, is pretty close to ideal.
Summer on the Costa del Sol brings with it three basic drawbacks, the first of which is the temperature. Many people ask me, quite reasonably, why I live in Spain when all I seem to do from mid-June to September is whinge about the heat, but if you haven’t braved the Marbella area at this time of year, you don’t know how we suffer!
It’s bad enough normally, but at least your Spanish friends let you know that you’re being a wimp. Try complaining about the way your shoes sink into the tarmac as it melts under the assault of the sun and all you’ll normally get is an irritated shrug and a sharp exclamation of, “Es verano!” It’s the summer, idiot! If you don’t like it go back to your own stupid country where the sheep wear vests and the sun shines once a year.
This year, however, it’s been so hot that even my Spanish mates are saying that their grandparents are claiming Summer 2009 as the hottest in living memory. As the temperature shoots up into the forties centigrade it has been difficult to concentrate on anything. It’s all very well if all you need to do is slump on a sunbed by the pool but if, like me, you have to work it’s not quite so jolly.
Then there’s the noise factor. Again, if you need to get up for work at 7:30 it’s a bit galling to be woken in the middle of the night by revellers returning from their tour of duty of the local nightclubs, singing Kylie’s greatest hits at full volume and pausing only to deposit a Technicolor yawn into the flowerbeds.
And that’s just the nocturnal din. During the day the pool area is taken over by a posse of parents dedicated to abdicating responsibility for their appalling brats. These can be divided into the Brits and the madrileños, down from the big city for their vacaciones. The noise levels are virtually identical, but you can always identify the sprogs from Madrid by their frequent cries of “mira!” Look at me, folks. What a bona fide genius I am. If Jack the Ripper’s victims had managed that level of vocal exhibitionism he would have been nicked and bang to rights seconds after laying his evil mitts on his first prostitute.
Yet the factor that most Costa del Sol locals find most challenging is the overcrowding that occurs during July and August.
It’s bad enough braving the Carretera Nacional 340 (aka The Highway of Death) during the winter, but the summer brings traffic overload that makes the M25 look like Brands Hatch on a Sunday in January. Now, with the road works around San Pedro de Alcántara (which my mate Giles refers to as “the chicane” for the way it’s abused by boy racers trying to impress their 16 year-old girlfriends) it’s even worse. You have a choice: extreme tailgating (undertaken in the bits where the traffic is still unaccountably moving, normally by birds with “Baby on Board” signs in the back of the car: if there’s a baby on board, bitch, stop driving like a loon!), or the amazing tailback caused by cars overheating and breaking down in the searing temperatures.
And as for a trip to Gibraltar, the only place in Europe to have an actual border, with real policemen asking to see your passport (or at least requesting that you flap it out of the car window at them), the queue is always far, far worse, thanks to the army of buses that take British holidaymakers to Gib, a place so packed full of history that I’m surprised it doesn’t actually explode, where they will visit Marks & Spencer, BHS and Morrison’s, shops that they regularly visit when they’re back in Godalming or Glasgow, or wherever else they come from in the UK. One lives in hope that one day that they will actually bother to have a look at some of the things that are worth seeing, but I ain’t holding my breath.
Still, it could be worse. I live in an air-conditioned apartment and travel to an air-conditioned office in an air-conditioned vehicle.
It’s September and the cooler weather is on its way very soon, even if it’s not actually here yet and all we expats are waiting for our favourite time of the year which we’ve been trying to keep a secret.
You know in December, when it’s freezing and it gets dark at about four? Well, it’s still warm enough here for us to sit outside in shirtsleeves most of the time and it only gets dark at about five-thirty in the depths of winter.
Occasionally we like to sit and enjoy a café sombra outside our favourite café and imagine all of you freezing your bums off in Ice Station Zebra.
Sometimes it’s almost enough to get us through the summer…