Where has the sum­mer gone?

Guru Magazine - - CONTENTS -

We’re all vic­tims of nos­tal­gia. A cou­ple of decades are long enough to make al­most any­thing seem won­der­ful and ir­re­place­able. Leila Wild­smith tells us to put our rose-tinted glasses back in their case: the sum­mers are get­ting wet­ter, a fact we’ll even­tu­ally have to ac­cept. Thank­fully, Leila has some ad­vice to make the tran­si­tion eas­ier.

For most of us, the word ‘ sum­mer’ evokes child­hood im­ages of bliss­ful freedom and end­less days play­ing in the sun. We fondly re­mem­ber trips to the beach, swim­ming in cool, blue seas, build­ing sand­cas­tles, get­ting sticky from ice-creams and, most im­por­tantly, not be­ing at school. How­ever, far from this pic­ture of ‘sweet­ness and light’, the re­al­ity of to­day’s sum­mer is al­to­gether dif­fer­ent. The re­cent UK heat­wave aside, sum­mer now is epit­o­mised by wet camp­ing hol­i­days, re­lent­less rain, and des­per­ate at­tempts to warm up with a cup of tea. All of this leads us to ask ‘ What has hap­pened to sum­mer?’ Rather than putting on our sun­glasses this year, many of us are don­ning rose-tinted specs and look­ing back on sum­mers past with an ex­ag­ger­ated sense of nos­tal­gia (and heav­ing deep sighs). There is def­i­nitely some truth to the feel­ing that our weather is get­ting colder and wet­ter. The UK’s Met Of­fice Chief Sci­en­tist, Pro­fes­sor Ju­lia Slingo, writes in her re­search pa­per Why was the

start to spring 2013 so cold?, “March 2013 was the sec­ond cold­est March in the UK record since 1910”. What’s more, it was not just the moan­ing Bri­tish that saw an un­usu­ally cold and snowy spring – the Bri­tish weather was part of a much wider pat­tern across the north­ern hemi­sphere: The cold tem­per­a­tures dur­ing March were part of a hemi­sphere-scale pat­tern of tem­per­a­ture anom­alies. This was ori­en­tated across the pole with large anom­alies over North Amer­ica and across Asia. Ex­treme cold and snow has af­fected Rus­sia and the Ukraine, and over the eastern and north­ern USA tem­per­a­tures were more than 3°C colder than nor­mal over very large ar­eas. [read her full re­port

here] The weather “anom­alies” that are sweep­ing the globe are part of a wider pat­tern of un­usual or ‘ex­treme’ weather, which, due to its fre­quency, is be­com­ing less ‘ab­nor­mal’ and more nor­mal. In her ar­ti­cle of Jan­uary 2013 Heat, Flood or Icy Cold, Ex­treme Weather Rages World­wide, Sarah Lyall con­firms th­ese changes: “the un­pre­dictabil­ity of [the weather] turns out to have been all too pre­dictable: Around the world, ex­treme has be­come the new com­mon­place”. Good or bad, the weather is def­i­nitely chang­ing. How­ever, whilst we may be­lieve that it is only in re­cent years that the weather in the sum­mer has be­come cold and wet (per­haps be­cause of the

rel­a­tively re­cent de­vel­op­ments in mon­i­tor­ing and record­ing weather sys­tems and pat­terns), Shake­speare him­self wrote of the Bri­tish weather, “For the rain it raineth ev­ery day.” It is there­fore wise to re­mem­ber that our mem­ory of the past (es­pe­cially in re­la­tion to the weather) is not nec­es­sar­ily ac­cu­rate. The ‘myth’ of sum­mer be­ing a time of ‘sweet­ness and light’ is per­pet­u­ated not only by our faulty, se­lec­tive mem­o­ries, but also by the ex­pec­ta­tions we now have as a re­sult of tourism and ad­ver­tis­ing. The in­crease in avail­abil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity of travel to warmer climes means that there is a cul­tural ex­pec­ta­tion of a hot and sunny sum­mer. In ad­di­tion, tele­vi­sion and mag­a­zine ad­verts re­lated to the sum­mer sea­son (be it for food, clothes or sun pro­tec­tion), use im­ages, colours and sounds that we as­so­ciate with sun­shine and clear blue skies – even to the ex­tent that the mod­els have a healthy sun-kissed glow. Rather than just be­ing a harm­less fan­tasy, this se­lec­tive mem­ory – reimag­in­ing, rather than

re­mem­ber­ing the past – is a danger­ous thing when it leads us to be­lieve that the present is not as good as the past. In her re­cent ar­ti­cle for the New York Times, Be­ware So­cial Nos­tal­gia, Stephanie Coontz writes, “In per­sonal life, the warm glow of nos­tal­gia am­pli­fies good mem­o­ries and min­i­mizes bad ones […] It al­ways in­volves a lit­tle harm­less self-de­cep­tion, like for­get­ting the pain of child­birth”. This ‘Golden Age nos­tal­gia’ leads to a con­stant sense of dis­sat­is­fac­tion that our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion will

never live up to the imag­ined his­tory we have cre­ated for our­selves. And it’s not just a prob­lem in re­la­tion to the weather, al­though that is of­ten where the pat­tern starts. Our ob­ses­sion with the ‘Good Old Days’ can per­vade ev­ery as­pect of our lives – jobs, houses, re­la­tion­ships – and we find our­selves long­ing for some­thing which never re­ally ex­isted. Ad­ver­tis­ers know that we will pay hard cash to try to re­live an imag­ined past; they ef­fec­tively use the phe­nom­e­non to mar­ket retro phones, time-worn fur­ni­ture and VW cam­per vans. Coontz con­tin­ues, “nos­tal­gia can dis­tort our un­der­stand­ing of the world in danger­ous ways, mak­ing us need­lessly neg­a­tive about our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.” When we look back fondly on our imag­ined pasts, we over­look the pos­i­tives in our present or, worse, only look at the present through a crit­i­cal eye. In­stead of believ­ing that the past was per­fect, or that we can only en­joy the sum­mer if the sun is shin­ing, we need to learn to make the most of ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, come rain or shine. So re­mem­ber to keep smil­ing un­derneath your um­brella this sum­mer.

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