We all have our rituals. A few weeks ago, I started saying to everyone I met that surely – surely! – no winter had ever lasted this long, in my many years in Britain. March was ending and by that point, memories of feeling the warm sun on my face felt about as distant as the Great Fire of Rome. God, I bet those flames felt good from a distance.
In early April I checked Facebook, for no other reason than I’d finished reading the entire internet and still had some spare time on my hands. I clicked on the “on this day” tab and found, to my amusement, an event that I’d created some years ago.
“Let’s go to the park once the weather gets nice again!”, was the name of the gathering – date TBC, obviously. The point of it was that I needed hope, desperately, and assumed that others did so. As became clear that day, this year is nothing special: every April, without fail, I end up thinking that no winter has ever been this long.
I can’t even remember what we ended up doing on the day it got warm, or even when it did happen in the end. Sometimes the oasis on the horizon is the most important part of the story.
What feels especially cruel about this persistent, oppressive greyness is that we are free to enjoy it. It has now been three years since the first lockdown, yet I still remember it disturbingly well, as I’m sure everyone does. I remember looking outside my window, day after day, and seeing nothing but deep, taunting blue.
Finally, we were having a good, early spring; we just weren’t allowed to bask in it. At least last year I didn’t have to deal with the disappointment, as I was in Venice for March and April. Spring in Venice is odd; wonderfully warm and bright during the day but, the second night falls, you are reminded that you are deep in a lagoon, surrounded by cold water.
I once went for some drinks there in late March and they were, I think, the shortest drinks I’ve ever attended. We all had a glass – no, a thimble – of prosecco each, then realised we were too cold to even talk to each other. We were standing by a canal in the dark. Looking around us, we realised we were the only people there and then left. We’d been there for about 20 minutes in total.
Spring in Venice is bittersweet for the locals because it means they are about to both regain their city and lose it entirely. Warmth gives them access to the city’s many terraces, but it also attracts the tourists, who they will have to fight to get those seats.
It also fails to be an entirely happy affair in Morocco, where my mother is from, and where I have spent quite a lot of time. Moroccans are better at handling the heat than Brits are – there are few lower bars in this world – but no one truly enjoys life when it is 45 degrees outside.
March and April in Marrakech can often be the best months of the year, but they do signal that oppressive heat is on its way back, like the start of a horror movie. Already, it is forecast to reach the high thirties in the next few weeks; the window in which everyone can enjoy themselves is beginning to shut.
Perhaps this shows that spring really is the most treacherous season. For some reason we all pin our hopes on it – dream of longer days, drinks in the sun, long walks in the light breeze, but it rarely delivers. How could it? Every year, it is crushed under the weight of our expectations.
I wish I could say the solution would be to let spring simply be what it is, but I would be lying. I could never do that. The first truly sunny and warm day of the year in London is the point at which I truly fall in love with the city again, and I doubt I’m the only one. Suddenly, I could hug the buildings and everyone I walk past. I am only impatient because I know what’s at stake.
Instead of seeing spring as a disappointment, then, maybe I should begin treating it as a tease. It’ll show us its delights eventually – waiting for them a bit longer will only make them sweeter.