Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Climate Compensations

When we first moved to Albania, Albanians & foreigners alike kept saying to us "The best thing about Albania is the climate".

I think this captures both how locals and ex pats feel about this country, but also just how contrastingly fantastic the weather is.

First of all it has seasons. I hug myself with glee, sometimes secure in the knowledge that winter will emerge in to spring, summer heat, swimming & sunscreen will dispel the memory of colder months & then wood burners, woollies & the crunch of dry leaves will replace air conditioners & the whine of mosquitoes. It's like being a child in a chocolate factory anticipating the delights in the next bubbling vat. I have always loved the seasons, the markers of the year, & the traditions & activities associated with each.

I missed them dreadfully in Sri Lanka. who'd have thought the sight of a clear blue sky could become oppressive? I found the relentless, unchanging nature of the weather there tedious. Hot & wet or hot & dry. But always hot. And humid.

So perhaps I am overly excited about living 'in seasons' again. And actually I think what I like is the balance of seasons here. Short (wet) winters, long dry summers, and warm, gentle spring & autumn. A bit of cold & drear to keep the British psyche feeling at home, but plenty of warmth , blue skies & sun too. Just not ALL the time.

It has the effect of dispelling the desperate urgency one feels as a Brit to 'get out & enjoy the weather' because you never know when another nice day might come along. Sometimes I think: 'actually I'll stay in today, or sit on the baclony', content in the knowledge that tomorrow will be another nice day. Or there'll be another very soon. It's very liberating, & much more relaxing.

I just love this time of year now. My 1st Medidterranean Autumn. Well we are north of Greece, sounds so much more romantic & exotic than East European, or Balkan Autumn somehow.

When we arrived back at the end of Aug, from our summer visit to the UK, we had three weeks still of swimming, eating outside, tennis. It made up for the lack of summer in England.

Gradually, imperceptibly we have moved into Autumn. We found we could no longer eat breakfast on the balcony, we were putting on warm tops in the evenings.

It has got colder & colder in the mornings whilst still getting up to 25' by midday. It is a sartorial nightmare. You need a coat , boots or socks & shoes or stockings in the morning. Even gloves if biking. At least 3 changes a day are needed as the thermometer see saws back & forth between summer & autumn.

Our 4 yr old, who is biked across the park in the mornings by my husband, wears long socks which she wears pulled up to her knees, (she then rolls them down, as only little girls know how, as the day gets hotter) and a fleece over her t shirt & cotton skirt. By lunch time she needs a hat & sunscreen.

The other day when I went to collect her she told me;

'Daddy wraps me in a blanket in the mornings'.

I hadn't seen this. Turns out M found a lightweight, tartan blanket which he tucks round her knees on the bike seat . 'Granny in a Bath chair' style to keep her warm, only further adding to her imperial manner as she is cycled to & fro.

I was quite impressed my hubby had thought of this; the man who refuses to wear gloves in any weather & who never remembered to pack spare clothes, nappy or snack on the boys' day he used to spend once a week with our son aged 18mths.

Not that it did our, now 8, year old any harm. They used to have a wail of a time going swimming, picking blackberries, going to watch diggers in action. Our son might have been a bit cold, wet, hungry or in a dirty nappy, but I'm sure he never noticed & that was part of being a boys' day I'm sure.

More signs: the trees are beginning to change colour. More than just dusty green on the palette now. In the park the ladies have replaced their wild flower gathering with branches of russet & gold leaves.

Most noticeable is the light though. It is so much gentler & more mellow now. Everything seems in soft focus, suffused with a golden, hazy glow, no longer the harsh, white glare of the summer where your eyes water with the blinding brightness. The skies are still blue, but it's a watery blue, the sun is still warm but it is a thinner, welcome warmth, not the scorching furnace of the 40' summers.

And the air always carries a slight chill round the edges of the sun's warmth to remind you it's no longer summer.

We haven't quite got a handle on the seasons here though. A few weeks ago my son said

"Oh look there's one of those trees with prickly things on you can play a game with", clearly resurrected from the recesses of his childhood memory bank. Too long in Asia.

"That's a horse chestnut tree" I explain.

"And those are conkers." I add.

So we went conkering yesetrday. We only found 5 despite exhaustive searching in the Botanical Gardens. ( a grand name for another dusty park with lots of trees & a few flower beds) There were none on the trees still either.

"We must be too late" I said.

The same thing happened with blackberries. We went blackberrying at the very beginning of September, only to discover we seemed to be a week or two late. There were still a few there, but mostly gone, the ones left were shrivelling and dessicating on the bushes. I picked enough for 2 small crumbles.

We need to adjust our British meteorological clocks, in line with Albanian seasons.

Meanwhile it seems to be "Season of misseds and mellow fruitlessness". We'll try again next year.


Iota said...

I now feel very sorry for people who come to live in Britain from other countries. They must find our weather so dreary and relentless. We think we have four seasons, but the range of them is pretty small, compared with elsewhere.

Parisgirl said...

Lovely post. Autumn in Europe can be beautiful and invigorating when there has been a summer. When it is the transition from a grey and chilly summer to a greyer and chillier winter, as has been the case the last few years in both London and Paris, it is a gloomy reminder of warmth and light that never was and the cold dark that is to come.

Wife in Hong Kong said...

I think I have forgotten what Autumn feels like. Cooler weather here has meant temperatures of 29 degrees rather than 32 degrees. People are talking about Halloween and I just think, what, in this weather?

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Thanks Parisgirl, I hadn't thought of that, being my 1st Autumn here, it may not be typical. I assumed because we're so far south that it probably was. I think I was just getting carried away by my euphoria at finding somethign really good about our new posting (well 9 mth old posting...)

WIHK I remember I used to put on my crop JEANS when it got down to 29'in SL. That was when I knew I was acclimatised. We had our a/c set to 27' at night. Any less & we wd wake up cold!

Iota, I think it's true, the weather is one of the most depressing & difficult adjustements for many immigrants to the UK.