Friday, July 16, 2010

LA Heat

Los Angeles has heated up over the last two days. The misty grey June gloom has given way to the garish sunshine of July, brazen in its hat, wilting the hydrangeas, rendering car journeys impossible without the use of a towel on the seat (fried thighs & the dashboard thermometer registering 99F) and hitting poor, unsuspecting tourists where it hurts most -- on the top of their hatless, pinking heads.  I see them driving around in those open topped buses, at the overlook on Mulholland, and wonder what bad joke they're participating in, albeit unwittingly. LA tour guides: it is your responsibility to tell sweet, unsuspecting tourists that this weather will give them sunstroke if they don't wear hats and shades and sunscreen and drink lots of water. To the Europeans who are dealing with October-like cold and rain, I say, no this isn't preferable. There is a happy temperature, right around 80 degrees, with light fluffy clouds, which makes everyone smile beatifically.  Even the dogs don't sun their bellies in this heat.  And so, without heeding the warnings of the DWP, broadcast on the hour on KPCC on days that People Use Their Air Conditioning With Abandon, I spent yesterday cooking.
  • Gazpacho
  • Quinoa with golden beets, spring onions, cornichons, dill (Norwegian Tartare style)
  • Spicy quinoa from the NYT
  • B'stilla
  • Butter lettuce, orange, fennel, red onion & pine nut salad (for the b'stilla)
  • Peach clafoutis
In a couple of days the children and I leave for the magical island in Norway where my mother has a summer cottage, an island where I spent the summers of my childhood and the place that my urban children (even at 15 & 20) dream about.  Although I long to be there in the rain, with the fat brown slugs and the flooded cellar (my mother reports in her latest missive) and the jellyfish, and the shrimps for supper, it is not without anxiety.  Sleep is elusive when you're waiting for a holiday.  There is so much to do, so many ends to tie, shampoo to buy in travel-sized bottles, packing-planning for three different places (none of them with the same climate as the one you live in), instructions to leave for walking the dogs, vet bills to pay, presents to buy, drawers to clean, papers to sort, books to choose & create elegant piles with, only to discard, and then the general morass of leaving.  Is packing fun for anyone? Unless you pay people to keep your clothes in tissue paper and plastic bags, in neat, color-coordinated rows, is there anyone who actually enjoys packing?

My brother is very good at this. He keeps a whole wardrobe in the summer house: thick fishing sweaters, khaki jeans, a few shirts for dinner, and twelve pairs of shoes (I know this because my mother counted them).  My friend Lucy packs weeks in advance and sends her cases by FedEx or UPS so she can walk straight through on the plane without the hassle of being searched.  My mother lays out her clothes in a guest bedroom, at least 10 days before departure and manages maximum efficiency.  My daughter, who is the most organized in the family, takes pictures of outfits with a polaroid before leaving so that she is never confused as to what goes together.

For so many years the cottage didn't have a washing machine, a shower or even a loo, that I forget that these options are there, that I don't in fact need twenty four pairs of knickers.  After years of intense pressure, my mother has even succumbed to a tumble dryer -- people who live in hot climates will never understand the bliss of pulling on a pair of warm, dryer-fresh jeans on a wet and miserable day.  Despite the new addition to our family of appliances, I find myself hanging clothes to dry on the line with wooden pegs. The sun moves around the house and dries them to a nice, stiff crisp, which doesn't matter one iota when you're in it for the romance quotient.  One has to check knickers for ants and earwigs, however, and the little brown seeds from the silver birch tree.

One thing I do bring and leave every year is books. The little book shelf is choc-a-bloc with excellent books that we re-read year after year: Jane Austen, Zadie Smith, Zane Grey, Sebastian Faulks, Dave Eggers, Andre Gide and of course the irresistible Rosamund Pilcher.  Would a summer be the same without The Shell Seekers?  There are games too: Travel Scrabble, Norwegian Monopoly, decks of cards in three tartans and blue ones courtesy of British European Airsystems.  (Also small bottles of gin fashioned as pretty blue and white Dutch houses, thanks to Bols and KLM). Once we hit Tjome, Solitaire is the only game in town & all four of us sit around the pine table early in the morning, sun blazing in from across the fjord, making piles of cards, seven across and seven down, wordless and soundless but for the screech of the seagulls and the clinking of masts at the jetty.  Time stops. I don't blame this entirely on the game of Patience, but the constant light, the long, bright days, the compelling need to use the light when it's there, so that we eat dinner late, get up early, long to be out on the sea, change our circadian rhythms, climb the cherry trees, walk in the woods, fish for crabs from the jetty, make picnics to take out to the islands.


Tania Kindersley said...

Lovely, lovely writing.

I remember June gloom. Six years ago I was in Los Angeles, with all my summer clothes, and it was colder than Scotland. June Gloom, everyone said, nodding sagely.

So agree about the packing. It's almost impossible to get me out of the house now, because of the damn packing.

Happy holidays x

June said...

Can't wait for Norway!

Northern Snippet said...

What a lovely post.Enjoy your holiday!

Jill of All Trades said...

Stay cool. We've had 100 days for the past three days and in the upper 90's for the past couple of weeks. It is Oklahoma and I love it.