People are saying this is the hottest summer in fifty years. Since May the temperatures have consistently been in the high 30s, and as often as not way over 40 degrees centigrade. Now people talk about little else because brains have been fried. Seville has the infamy of being chalked up as Spain’s Hottest Place having twice reached 51 degrees in 1876 and 1881. Any scepticism, any attributing this to inferior thermometers, has dissipated along with every molecule of moisture in the soil.
In town to order a small truck-load of gravel and six bags of concrete at Lobato the builders’ merchants earlier today, I noticed that people seemed particularly lethargic. The buckets to catch the drips from air-conditioners were overflowing, and the doorway of every house there was a person fanning themselves, dios mio-ing and ay calor-ing and so on, and theatrically wiping sweat from their brows. I saw old women inside dark rooms sitting with their knees apart and their skirts hoisted up. That’ll be me one day, I thought.
I stayed as long as I could at Lobato’s, the only place I know with air-conditioning, reading labels on floor tile cleaning fluids for a while, and then drove home the long way round and as slowly as I could with the car’s air-conditioning set to 14. I paused on the ridge. I remember looking across to the farm at the beginning of May and thinking how lushly green it all looked. Now in the third month of temperatures over 30, and on the third consecutive day that has been ‘that winning combination of suffocatingly hot and ominously overcast, the ground is straw and the sky, a kind of lavender.
I pass the property in the photograph each time I drive home. It belongs to a goat-farming family, the oldest of whom is father, grandfather, great-grandfather to someone in every house in the hamlet except mine, and even then he used to own it and his daughter and her brothers slept on a ledge above the hearth in the kitchen long before there was electricity, running water or the area was connected to the outside world by a road. Not hard to imagine: the municipality still doesn’t provide a road, running water or electricity (I’ve had to be inventive), though the kitchen now has a ceiling. Perhaps I’ll remove it and use that warm space myself. His granddaughter sings Led Zepplin covers in a rock band and make extremely good goats’ cheese.