I am sitting at the table on my terrace as I write this letter to you, and the thermometer on the wall to my right shows well over 30 degrees. It is late June after all. This took me back to an old song we used to sing in our music class at school nearly 60 years ago. It went like this.
The sixth month if the year
In the month call-ed June
When the weather’s too hot to be borne,
The master doth say as he goes on his way
Tomorrow my sheep shall be shorn.
I don’t know why that song comes back to me now. Perhaps because we sang it so often. I remember it was fun to sing ‘call-ed’ with two syllables as if this was some aberration we could get away with. Normally our language at school was carefully honed and closely monitored. But I always wondered why it mattered that June was the sixth month of the year and also why it said June was so hot when in Somerset it so often wasn’t.
Anyway we are at the end of June now and here on my terrace in Palma it is very hot indeed. I have rigged up some sails to give some shade but they are fighting a losing battle. The sun still finds every corner. It is Wimbledon time in England and so I hope the weather there is good.
I wish that my thermometer would make some noise as it passes the 30 mark. Some bleep or squeak or hiccough that would make me do something to stay cooler even if it was just having a glass of water nearby. Ready and to hand.
I used to have a Swiss neighbour here. One summer, in mid-July I think it was, the days were in the mid-30s and, even worse, the nights never cooled down either. The bedroom was like an oven on Gas Mark 4. He was at the end of his tether. He was red in the face as he greeted me and grumbled ‘It is so hot that I cannot think correctly!’ For a Swiss, thinking correctly is very important. Their minds should run like clockwork, and Swiss clockwork at that. Because of the heat, my neighbour was unsure of himself and was losing his bearings.
I remember a student of mine, Carles, at a class in early June. ‘I am longing for the summer,’ he said. ‘I long to feel soaked in heat with that pleasant exhaustion that the heat brings. That feeling of not wanting to move, which is so pleasant when you don’t have to do anything.’
I was amazed that anyone could enjoy feeling that hot. Coming from so much further north, I always like to have energy to spare, to have a spring in my step and to feel ready for anything. Later that summer as the thermometer climbed higher and higher I often thought of Carles and supposed he was hot, tired and happy. It turned out to be a torrid summer. Carles and I did not meet again till late September, for it is not until then, or even till October, that classes restart and the year in Palma becomes serious once more.
‘So did you feel pleasantly hot?’ I asked.
‘Yes, I did and at first it was marvellous but over the last few weeks I must admit that the pleasure has waned,’ he said. ‘Even I am ready for cool nights and crisp mornings.’
I was reassured to find that Carles and I were now, after all, more or less in agreement about the weather. There is moderation in all things. This brings me in a roundabout way to a quotation from Thomas Paine. Check him out on internet. It is worth the trouble for he led an interesting life and history still hasn’t made up its mind about how to label him. I found these words added in pencil in the margin some book I picked up to browse through. ‘Moderation in temper is always a virtue but moderation in principle is always a vice.’ A good thought. He is concerned with temper and not temperature though and, on that note, let us finish.