The summers of 74, 75, & 76 were hot. I remember the indolent feeling of not being able to do very much in what seemed like a wall of heat. Housework got done in the cool mornings and late evenings. Our summer school wear was incapable of keeping us cool: this was the decade of nylon and polyester. My white socks clung to my legs, leaving ridges and holes on my legs where the elastic pattern had welded my skin in the summer heat. Summer sunburn in a lacy pattern to my knees. I tried to make this a poem but couldn’t. I think there was just too much to say.
But he held me by the hand and we walked through the greenhouse beneath the vines plaited along the roof: alternate bunches of white and red just beyond my reach. He laughed and said,”Too early yet. They need sun and moisture to ripen.”Then he hunkered down and fed the yellow flowered tomatoes which tasted best when they were warm and tangy from the greenhouse. He watered the vines, lifted the skylight and left the windows and doors open.
I followed him; pretending to mow the grass behind the lawn mower that whirred like a large green insect. He showed me how to scatter the cuttings around the base of plants and mulch them around the roses then clipped the edges so that the lawn had defined edges.
Sometimes he lifted me high in the cherry blossom that was pink in spring and green and leafy in summer. And summer was hot, the humidity clung to my skin and sometimes there was nothing to do but read indolently in the shade and drink Quosh, letting the sun slide over us. Once, the cold water tap ran tepid — warmed by the sun that streamed through the kitchen throwing dancing lights on the wall.
Tea on the lawn was a treat as I picnicked beneath the red parasol speared into the grass that was beginning to dry out. But as the sun moved over the garden to set behind the almond blossom and beech trees, he dragged the hosepipe across the lawn and let me dance between the water jets that rang with a metallic song underscored by the hiss of the water through the pipe.
Then bath time as I poured soapflakes from the heavy jar so the bubbles and foam escaped on the light breeze beneath the drainpipes. Bedtime and it was still light, like magic -reading by the sun at night; and I was allowed to sleep with the top window open. I fell asleep on top of the bed. When morning came, the light was the same colour, just that the sun rose over the Mumbles so that the sea was pink and bronze, and the air was still again. There were dark mutterings: “It can’t last; the weather will have to break soon.”The heat gathered its own momentum and built its own intensity. And I hoped and hoped that the storm wouldn’t break while I was at school.
It was dark when the storm finally crashed over head lluminating the house in silver light, flinging black shadows that moved in the split second of light. “It’s only the angels moving the furniture.” Someone said as I yelled my way along the landing. The rain teemed down and the roads gave off the hot smell of sticky,steaming , tar. The earth was sucking themoisture from the skies; the air was alternately hot and cold as it tried to find a balance. We sat on the bed and counted elephants, trying to gauge the distance and the direction of the storm . Then it was overhead, so we could barely think or hear or count; and it broke in waves over our heads as we waited for it to roll away. We sent my brother to make tea. He brought cups and saucers, sugar and milk on a tray with the teapot and Rich Tea biscuits. I was told not to dunk not to make a mess. We drank the pot dry then sent my brother for more. And I imagined him in the light of the storm, filling the kettle watching the darkness move and the light change places in the sky.
The storm rolled away towards Somerset, weaving back on itself to growl around the Swansea Valley. It was almost dawn. The sky pinked up, pearl and silver and bronze again. The air was warm and full of promise. The heat had lost its edge.