“What do you think these two tiny screws are for?” grumbled my husband, having just dropped one on the floor and watched it roll under the TV stand.
“They’re probably not that important,” I replied hopefully, bored of the whole assembly process.
“Well how are we going to fix the switch on, then?” he replied irritably, groveling under the TV stand for the missing screw.
“I’m not sure -- but does it really matter? It’s working.”
My perfectionist (my view, not his) husband shook his head in disbelief at my cavalier attitude. The switch in question had been left dangling awkwardly from the motor of our newly acquired fan for several days now. My daughter and I had been rather proud of having fitted virtually all the assorted components of the new fan together while he was away on a trip -- what was the big deal about a dangling switch and a couple of screws left over? My husband has to have everything just so and, perspiring profusely as the fan had to be off during the switch-fitting process, he eventually (and much to his chagrin only with the help of his more practically minded youngest son) managed to fix the switch to the column and WD-40 the already noisy fan into a semblance of quiet running. The cool waves of air were a blessed relief to all.
“You had instructions?” exclaimed a friend who by chance had also recently bought the same model and was also still pondering how to fit the switch to her new purchase. We are obviously not alone in the battle to keep cool during Antalya’s summer, or in our ability to understand instruction sheets badly translated into English from the original Chinese.
At home, we have sanctimoniously resisted the obvious temptation of installing air conditioning units in our front room or even the bedroom. Rightly or wrongly, I object to them on the grounds that they potentially encourage the spread of germs, make the transition from comfortable living inside to braving the heat outside more daunting and are both expensive and environmentally unfriendly. That said, we had one installed a couple of years ago, in the room we generally describe as my husband’s office. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in the visiting teenage step son developing a sudden and incredible interest in helping his beloved father at work, thus enabling the pair of them to spend the best part of the day closeted safely in the cool environs of the office. I only have their word that they are working and not perusing the latest football blogs or reminiscing over favorite bands on YouTube. I wouldn’t know, as I am generally spread-eagled in front of our latest fan downstairs.
Conversations with friends and acquaintances begin now with, “Hi, how are you?”
“Ooh yes, dreadful isn’t it. I don’t know if I can stand another month of this.”
This is from the pessimists. With the (rather fewer) numbers of optimists among my friends and acquaintances, it goes something like this:
“Hi, boiling isn’t it?”
“Not as hot as last year, though.”
“Could be worse -- could be raining,” usually accompanied by a mock-cheery grin.
It’s not just we foreigners from more northern climates who are suffering, either. An arrangement to meet two long-standing Turkish friends for mid-afternoon coffee eventually ended up being an 8 p.m. rendezvous as one of them said, “It’s too hot to come into the city center now.” Still, the extreme heat makes for good bonding -- we are all in it together for the duration, except those lucky enough to be able to escape to cooler climes. Britain, for one, has recently been cocooned in the jet stream and thus subjected to both torrential rain and plummeting temperatures. During Skype conversations with my family, they are mightily unimpressed if I attempt to elicit sympathy for our current suffering. To stop me moaning, they turn their laptop accusingly to the window of the house to reveal, beyond the rain-spattered pane, trees bent double in strong winds and rain lashing horizontally.
The Turkish papers report record temperatures in Antalya as though it is a complete surprise. I’ve lived here the better part of seven years now, and have to say that every summer it is, without fail, hot and humid. It may vary a degree or two and the humidity levels go up and down, but the overall impression is that it is undoubtedly hot. If it weren’t, millions of tourists would not flock to our Mediterranean shores every year. All but a very few are not here for the wonderful ancient sites, fascinating local culture, tasty cuisine or even the booze. They come to Antalya so that they can bask in the sun and splash around in the sea. So why the high temperatures should be newsworthy is a mystery, yet it happens every year without fail.
While I don’t enjoy the constant feeling of being hot, I try hard not to moan incessantly. It’s noticeable that those spending most of their time in air-conditioned environments (my husband, for one) are the ones who grumble the loudest and most vociferously when required to run an errand in the outside world.
In fact, there are any number of pleasures to be found during these days. First and foremost must be those early morning swims. There is really nothing to compare with being able to plunge into the relatively cool waters of the Mediterranean Sea only a few hundred meters from my house. It really does upset my friends and family back in the north of England when I mention my pre-breakfast trip to the glorious bay of Antalya. An extra special thrill is caused by the icy cold streams of water that flow from the rocks into the sea at various points during my swim.
Then there is the security of knowing exactly what the weather will be like tomorrow, the day after and indeed for the next two or three months. Indeed my husband derives no end of amusement from repeating every morning the rather dated English phrase “turned out nice again.” In the UK, planning outings -- picnics, bike rides, camping holidays -- in advance is a waste of time. All these are subject to the vagaries of the British weather and many a well-planned trip ends in disaster. By contrast, in Antalya, I love the fact that I know for certain that I will not need to spend time wondering whether I need a sweater, coat, boots, umbrella, etc. Summer clothes get plenty of use over here.
That said, I am looking forward to my annual trip over to the UK next week for a few weeks to enjoy the rain, wind and cooler temperatures.