Sunday, 23 June 2013

Flood, Sweat and Beers

It’s summertime, and the living is cheesy! Summer in Utrecht is rather like having one summer in two cities: on the one hand, Mark Twain’s damp, chilly San Francisco, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco;” on the other, damp, steamy New Orleans at its sultriest. And in between, some perfect L.A. moments of bright sunshine with a light, cool breeze (but no smog!).  

Of course, this changes by the day – if not the hour – so be prepared! Be mindful of Cheever’s famous last words, “It was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong.” But it can also be a dismal rainy summer morning and seem as if nothing could go right – yet it does! The longest day of the year was such a day, beginning with dreary morning showers but ending with a barbeque celebration in a lovely garden, dancing to lively South African Swing, accompanied by clear skies, a full “super moon,” and a sunset just after 11:00 p.m. A midsummer night’s dream!  

So, what are some signs of summer in Utrecht?   

You never do shed your coat on that Sunday afternoon picnic and you bike home shivering in a sudden downpour.  

The very next day finds you in shorts and tank top, getting so hot and sweaty in your upstairs workspace that you decide to go to Albert Heijn to pick up some groceries just to get out of the heat.  

Putting on sunscreen is a secret signal for the clouds to roll in; if the rain does not wash it off, you will sweat it off the minute the sun comes back out. Naturally, then you get sunburnt.

It makes no difference whether you run on an indoor treadmill or outside in the rain, either way you are soaking wet in minutes. At least in the rain you get in your shower at the same time! 

Outdoor seating at pubs and cafes spills out onto the streets and wharves, every seat taken, with empty, forlorn interiors. That is, until it starts raining and a sudden gust of chill wind sends everyone scurrying indoors!   

You get sick of pulling weeds in your garden and decide you rather like that wild, natural look.  
You no longer bother trying to figure out which festival or event is behind random spontaneous musical or theatrical performances or displays of art; like toadstools in the moist summer air, they just appear out of nowhere and sometimes include elves!  

The bike lanes in the city center are clogging up with sight-seeing pedestrians and tourists on rental bikes who abruptly stop or turn right in front of you, causing you to lose a shoe trying to skid to a stop. Luckily, you have learned some handy Dutch epithets and they have no idea what you are muttering!  

As the tourists come, many of your classmates are leaving to complete their theses in far-flung places. A scant month to deadline, your thesis can wait as you go to a series of farewell gatherings to review the LLM year: a flood of memories, a great deal of sweat, and a steady flow of beers! A toast to the departed, may your lives be as complete as your theses soon shall be!   

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Epilogue


No comments:

Post a Comment