No doubt about it, summer is here. The other day Sevilla reached 47 degrees Celsius and this is early July! Here in Ronda we are not far behind, so what does a Viking with low heat tolerance, a virtual heat wimp, do to survive the summers of Southern Spain? As I haven’t figured out my DOs yet, let me tell you my DON’Ts:
DON’T spend the day scraping paint off a door on the terrace
It seemed like a good idea at the time, working outside in the breeze and the shade, but that was before I almost perished by heat stroke. You see, the southern rays get everywhere. It is like the wind that comes from all directions at the same time. Heat envelops you from above, below and from every possible angle in between. Even if the sun isn’t actually hitting the spot where you are standing, there is no escaping its wrath. Scraping paint was particularly unsuited to this type of weather, as millions of paint-pieces adhered to my damp skin like glue and not even a rough floor brush got them off. The stone flooring amplified the heat factor and the white walls blinded me, while I slowly sizzled alive.
DON’T start baking
We had an abundance of fresh zucchinis from our community garden and naturally I wanted to make sure they didn’t go bad. Zucchini bread for the freezer was my bright Martha Stewart-inspired solution. I had finally accepted that one ought to stay inside in the heat of summer (see above), so I reasoned that baking would be a perfect mid-day summer indoor activity. You can see that I don’t do much cooking… As the oven gradually got warmer, I realized that this might have been a bit of a mistake. Taking my ready masterpieces out of the oven made it even worse, with no place for the hot air to escape. Our entire house became an extended oven, making it unliveable not only for the Norwegian in the family, but even for the Mexican.
DON’T do yoga in the dark
I usually do yoga in the morning. As daylight emerges, I go down to our office where I can play my Eternal Ohm, spa-like muzak, Bollywood soundtracks or African rap, depending on how rebellious or ‘Zen’ I feel.
Summer is my least ‘Zen’ time of the year, by far. As the temperature rises, I start my session earlier, to prevent the outer heat from interfering with my inner one. While there might be rodents and slithering guests coming into my hall of inner peace, I always open the window to the elements, to get my daily dose of fresh air. Fearing that the heat would make me see double before I go into my first shoulder stand, I decided to go down to my yoga session in the pitch black. Considerate as I am (after all, I am a yogi…) I did not want to awake the above-mentioned Mexican, so I left the lights off, risking life and limb as I fumbled my way down two flights of railing-less stairs. After crashing into undefined objects and stubbing my toe in transit, there was of course an ‘early bird’ fly there to greet my pre-sun salutations.
DON’T open the windows
Like a true Viking, I believe that there is nothing better for ones health and wellbeing than fresh air. Actually, we Northerners solve almost any problem with AIR. Like the English run for a cup of tea when crisis hits, we get a bit of fresh air. Most of us keep windows open all year around, including the coldest winter nights. I mean, what could be healthier??? If there is a larger problem at hand, one might go for a brisk walk to air out ones head. With this preamble, it was only natural for me to think that the still air in our house in the midst of summer needed airing out, or a change of air, as it were. We had built our house with the traditional thick Andalucian walls, to keep the heat IN in the winter and OUT in the summer, but having a breeze running right through the house, albeit hot, felt like the right thing to do. In retrospect, I see why all our Spanish neighbours keep their windows closed and their blinds down all summer, even if the thermometer go down to a balmy 25 degrees at night. I suppose I just can forget about fresh air until October…
DON’T go on a fly hunt
I am not sure if the flies around here are native to Andalucía or have travelled from further afield. They certainly are tough enough to survive a jeep-ride across the Sahara and crossing the Gibraltar Straight in a leaky dingy. Wherever they origin, what I can say is that they are a pesky breed, indeed.
Whether you air out the house or not, you will have flies. Whether you have screens on every window and barely open your front door a narrow gap to sneak out, mark my word you will have flies. If you do not have flies coming in, there will be flies that have hibernated since last year. And even if you got rid off every single member of last year’s army of flies, there will be thousands of eggs waiting to hatch in places your broom can never reach. Naturally it is tempting for a Scandinavian cleaning freak to try to eradicate these pests. I do not want to use carcinogenic bug sprays and I cannot stand the thought of an electric fly-zapper or a trap full of fly carcasses, so I vacuum them out. Well, I try. And I try. Surely the neighbours are talking about the mad foreigner who runs around with the vacuum, fighting invisible demons and screaming at what looks like an empty room. As the summer temperature rises, the flies get more and more clever and persistent, and I get more and more lethargic and sloth-like. I might have to admit that during the heat of summer the flies are a loosing battle, even for this Viking.
DON’T get drunk
We all know that one is supposed to drink lots of fluids in the heat. And I do. My drink of choice in plus 30 degrees is usually water by the gallon. However, one night I joined some Spanish friends, most of whom with seemingly unlimited capacity for food and alcohol. I was served a glass of liquor-infused sangria. It was so effortless to drink, just like lemonade with a happy colour. Every time I looked away, like a cup of cornucopia, my glass was filled up to the rim again. As night fell and the heat started lightening its grasp on our throats, we all cheered. And cheer one certainly should, though preferably in water I realized as I was lying in bed, trying not to close my eyes to prevent the room from going around, something I have not done for decades. Blame the heat, blame the ever-filling glass or blame the lack of fresh air.
So, the moral of the story is… DO greet the day, but do it mindfully. DO air out the house, just not at high noon. And DO cheer at sunset, though preferably not in a fountain of sangria.