According to Aristotle, “one swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day” – so what does make a summer? It certainly isn’t anything to do with the calendar.
To me, summer begins with the scent of sunblock in the air, despite the fact that my togs don’t leave much skin to be sunblocked. There are invariably those around me who practically have to bathe in the stuff. Indeed, some people spend more beach time putting on sunblock than actually in the water.
Today, according to my little diary, is the day of the winter solstice (15:54 UTC, if you want to get technical). Many a time and oft have I read of Midwinter, and its more popular cousin, Midsummer. Picture my astonishment, therefore, on discovering that these are simply different names for the winter and summer solstices.
Which seems bizarre. The only way in which the solstice is the same thing as the middle of winter is that it’s the shortest day of the year. And yes, short days are associated with winter.
But are they what winter is primarily known for? No. What do you think of when you think of winter? Cold, right? Is Midwinter the middle of the cold season? Not even close. One could be excused for thinking it the beginning of the cold season.
In some countries, the windows are double-glazed. In some countries, the windows are triple-glazed. In New Zealand we are a hardy bunch, and unless you live in a fairly new house (or a house with fairly new windows) there’s a good chance you have single-glazed windows.
Yep. A single layer of glass between you and the chill of the winter beyond. Admittedly, our winters aren’t as cold as some places, but when flights head to Scott Base in Antarctica, New Zealand is where they leave from.