Every day this summer has started with the same routine. I wake up, plunge my head into a sink full of cold water and then check the weather app on my phone. I’m not interested in the forecast for London, where I live, but for Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. It’s not just that city’s climate – temperature in the low 10s, a hint of rain – that excites me, but also the thrill of imagining a place where the hype around summer doesn’t exist. There is no pressure to do summer “right”; no sense that you are cramming a year’s worth of living into three months; no Fomo (fear of missing out) as a result of scrolling through endless Instagram Stories featuring barbecues, festivals, beaches and thirst traps; no shame at preferring to stay inside with your two biggest fans. It’s time for me to confess: I hate the summer.
The months from June to September have always given me anxiety. In the single-parent household where I grew up, there were few options for escape abroad and the six-week school summer holidays were tricky. My mum, quite reasonably, wanted me and my sister out of the house, in the sun. I felt aimless, riding a bike up and down our street, or hitting a tennis ball against our neighbours’ wall until they got annoyed. Tales of my mum’s idyllic-sounding childhood in the Sussex countryside, where trees were climbed by 8am and streams navigated by lunchtime, were passed down to us like folklore. If I wanted to sit indoors and read, or play Sonic the Hedgehog on a red-hot Sega Mega Drive, I would often be made to feel guilty about not going outside to “enjoy it while it lasts”. To an introverted kid, that felt like a threat – and the feeling has stayed with me.