Earlier in the year, I confessed to having something along the lines of seasonal affective disorder. Winter makes me grumpy and resentful. Well, even more grumpy and resentful than usual. About as grumpy and resentful, in fact, as Karl Rove on election night.
But as I look out the window, the intense sunlight reminds me that we are mere weeks away from my favourite season, and I thought I'd bookend my earlier diatribe against winter with an ode, or laudation, or acclamation, or [insert your own favourite pretentious word meaning to heap a whole pile of praise on something here], or even panegyric. Because summer is the best month, and it is just over three weeks away, and I'm going to be on holidays, and – well, yay. Which is not a word I often use.
1) The beach
This has to be number one. Not only are Australian beaches lovely, of course, but the little secret we tend not to mention in Tourism Australia's ad campaigns is that the subtropical parts of our fine country can be, well, a bit cold for quite a lot of the year. Whereas the best days on the beach are, of course, the days of full, blazing sun – and, ideally, warm water temperatures. Such conditions, my friends, are only possible in summer – at least where I live in Sydney, and points further south are even less hospitable to the beachgoer during the off-season.
Sure, let's not admit to potentially-economy-boosting tourists that our beaches can be chilly at other times of the year. But amongst ourselves, let's admit that beaches are a summer thing, okay? And on a good day – well, this image speaks for itself.
2) The heat
Warm weather was elusive last summer throughout much of the country, and it only drove home just how much I love the temperatures of our finest season. Sure, heat can be tiring, and my skin starts to burn after approximately five minutes of sun, but sunshine always puts me in a cheerful mood. Life seems jolly and full of delightful possibilities when the weather is warm. I realise this is irrational, but I don’t care. I love it so much that I can even understand why people like the Gold Coast.
It's perfect that the most time-consuming of all sports takes place right when we have blocks of empty days to fill. Test cricket is an absolute marathon for the viewer, who risks being literally stuck in front of the TV if they have a leather lounge suite and no cooling system. (If that isn’t clear enough, let’s just say that sweat can sometimes have adhesive properties.) Test matches last for up to thirty hours over five days, and at their best, offer great see-sawing drama as teams gain and lose the upper hand.
During the winter months, nobody has that kind of time to invest in what is essentially a contest to see how far you can hit a lump of leather with a piece of wood. But in summer, cricket performs a valuable excuse to sit on the couch for protracted periods of time, staring at the screen because it's more socially acceptable than just blankly staring into space.
If you find Test cricket a tad dull, wash your mouth out! If you still find it dull, and are beginning to resent the taste of suds, one-day cricket and Twenty20 offer, respectively, slightly more action and arguably too much action. So there, modern cricket has something for everyone. Well, everyone who likes cricket.
4) Summer wardrobe
It's impossible not to feel relaxed while wearing warm-weather clothing. And I believe this even though the shape of my feet is such that I find thongs unpleasant to wear, which I realise renders me borderline un-Australian. (But remember that I love cricket, okay?)
Shorts, short-sleeved shirts, open-toed shoes and sunnies are fundamentally more pleasant clothes to wear than the heavy clobber of winter. Plus you aren’t allowed to wear them in wanky nightclubs, which surely only proves how excellent they are.
This summer I will be rocking Hawaiian shirts (I’m sorry, but there is no other verb which may be used in association with Hawaiian shirts) for three whole months. So I’ll be looking just about as tropical and relaxed as I feel.
In summer, laziness becomes socially acceptable. In other seasons, it’s downright unacceptable to lie and read a book for hours on end. But in summer, under a tree or a beach umbrella, idleness is seen as just about the ideal state to be in. It’s not perceived as being lazy, for some reason; it’s seen as relaxing.
I sometimes wonder whether those who live in constantly warm climates simply spend the entire year chilling out. (That’s certainly the impression given by the operators of Ibiza nightclubs.) One of these days I intend to find out...
6) Music festivals
I assume that when music promoters contacting the world’s top bands to ascertain whether they’ve any interest in making the long trek down to Australia, nine months of the year, they couldn’t think of anything worse. But given the chance to escape the unpleasant northern hemisphere winter and tour around sunny Oz, they’ll eagerly jump onto the nearest 747.
I sometimes wonder whether we as a nation have gone overboard, and should perhaps consider keeping at least one weekend over summer free of amazing music festivals, just to give ourselves and the nation’s sniffer dogs a chance to recharge. But no – it seems to be a given about life in Australia that summer will be jam-packed full of excellent events, and winter will be fairly dull. So we may as well enjoy things like the Big Day Out and Homebake and St Jerome’s and Meredith and Peats Ridge and Soundwave and everything else during the three months they’re available to us.
7) Barbecues – sorry, I mean BBQs
Meat, fire, bread and tomato sauce – what’s not to like? Plus there’s plenty on offer for vegetarians – salads are an equally important part of barbies nowadays, and In particular, potato salad, at least until it gets warm and becomes an ideal petri dish for bacteria. Summer and barbecues are as indivisible as barbecues and flies.
Not convinced? It’s the one occasion when men actually get off their arses and cook.
You know those annoying high-achievers you used to be friends with at school and uni? You know how they now live overseas and post exciting Facebook updates from exciting places and you’re incredibly jealous of them for 50 weeks of the year? Well, over summer, they’ll come crawling back because it’s the one time of the year when there’s far more happening here than in New York or London or wherever.
Sure, they’ll make lots of patronising comments about how much smaller Australia seems now, and you’ll want to punch them in the teeth, but once you get through that, it’ll be lovely, just like it used to be. Because the funny thing about expats is that, unlike people who live here with whom you might lose touch, expat friendships are somehow preserved in aspic, ready to be reactivated on their return.
After their brief visit, they’ll leave, pretending to be torn about where to live as they head to the airport. And then next Christmas, you’ll do it all again.
9) Christmas parties
‘Tis the season of abundant snacks, booze and bonhomie in the workplace! Keep your pants on while in the vicinity of the office photocopier, and Christmas parties are a fine thing. Unless you find yourself trapped among colleagues who’ve gotten just that little bit “emotional” after one sherry too many, there’s no shortage of fun in sight.
In fact, the Christmas spirit inhabits the work place throughout much of December and even January, by which I mean everybody slacks off and/or wears silly costumes. Summer is such a wonderful time of year that even being at work during the season can feel like being on holiday – that is, unless your job involves having to find interesting things to talk or write about, in which case, I’ve found, the season can be somewhat nightmarish. Best to use up all your leave, then, and make the most of summer!
So, there you have it – summer is easily the best season. End of story, QED.
And yes, I'm fully aware that I promised ten things, but have only listed nine. See item #5 above.