Endless sunny weeks bring joys of life into focus

DENISE IRVINE
Last updated 10:56 19/02/2013

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OPINION: While the fluffy ducks are still around, I want to mention three things I'm loving about this summer.

Back in the mid-1960s the hip movie to watch was The Endless Summer, about a couple of surfer dudes who follow the summer around the world in pursuit of the perfect wave.

It was directed by American surfer and film-maker Bruce Brown, it had great music, it was almost the soundtrack to our teenage summer holidays (along with The Beach Boys) when we fried ourselves in coconut oil and idly watched long-haired Kiwi surfies unload their boards from ancient stationwagons.

Surfies were a fairly new species back then, and as well as being expert on the waves, they knew how to have a good time. Their transient lifestyle and lean, tanned bodies were admired by many.

It did seem, in those days, as if our summers were endless, as the film title said. In my rose-tinted memories, before they invented La Nina and El Nino, there was day upon day of hot, bright, still weather and not much else to do other than go to the beach, and try and look gorgeous in the latest swimwear.

I've been reminded of my 1960s summers this year, with a long run of sunny weeks lined up like rows of fluffy yellow ducks. I confess I'm loving every moment of it, revelling in the blue skies, the heat, the warm seas that are perfect for swimming.

It's always dangerous to write about the weather. For one thing, people automatically think you've got nothing better to occupy your noodle with, and have fallen back on the classic Kiwi conversation opener ("nice weather we've been having lately/it's a bugger about all this rain").

Of course there are plenty of issues out there - the hardy annual of fluoride, the future of Hamilton theatres, Gareth Morgan, Richard Prosser, Novopay, the next pope, whooping cough, and more - but I'm unashamedly putting them to one side while I enjoy these amazing days.

These issues will keep till later, the weather won't.

The relentless blue skies don't suit everyone, another reason it's risky to praise such a golden run. Farmers suffer, gardens die, mozzies breed and bite, fire risks increase, Hamilton and other places battle serious water issues. Nowadays, when you drive down to the Waikato from the top of the Bombays, or the Kaimais, the parched carpet of farmland spread before you is a reminder that rain is sorely needed. The burst a couple of weeks back wasn't enough to revive things.

But while the fluffy ducks are still around, I want to mention three things I'm loving about this summer.

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First, the sweet, mellow nights. Food tastes better outdoors, the telly is abandoned, the only noise being the clink of wine glasses, the clack of cicadas. This summer you can sit outside without being chilled to the bone or blown away.

My best outdoor meal was a couple of weeks ago on the beach at Waikanae, near Wellington, in almost sub-tropical conditions. The coarse sand and piles of driftwood were the only visible signs that this was a rugged west coast beach where they almost count the number of balmy nights on one hand.

Normally outdoor dining at Waikanae is wind-assisted, said our hosts. Not on this occasion, with a gentle pastel sunset, Kapiti Island large on the horizon, no hint of breeze.

Second, the high summer food is excellent: outdoor tomatoes, basil, courgettes, cucumbers, sweet corn, capsicums, stonefruit, all these things are tasting so good, require minimum effort to prepare. The man who sold sweetcorn from a trailer near us at Mt Maunganui picked his vegetables fresh each morning. The corn was delicious, bearing little resemblance to some of the tired stuff you see at the supermarket.

The warm temperatures (coupled with absolutely judicious watering, I swear) is even having an effect in my own patch. I'm not a great gardener, my best efforts being reserved for a good showing of herbs. This year, a rogue tomato plant reared its head in the herb garden; it struggled for a long time before I realised it was serious and gave it a helping hand of food and water. Now it is fruiting well, although rather inconveniently sprawled over the path to the front door, and I'm nipping in ahead of the birds to feast on the crop.

Third, the simple lightness of being. It is such a pleasure to be able to throw open every window and door in the house, to go bare-footed, to enjoy the gentle drift from the ceiling fan at night. A green cotton shift dress bought five years ago in Rarotonga is getting a thrashing this summer. It is the coolest thing I own. I dread the eventual return to layering, tights, boots, and the end of daylight saving.

In Hamilton, I miss the ocean and sometimes ponder why I've made my life in an inland city. I guess you can't have everything. Although this long summer I'm having a damn fine go at it.

- Waikato

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