Sitting in the garden on Thursday evening, on the small, old set of garden furniture just outside the door, sounds waft through the warm air, carried on a soft breeze, a barely-there breath of a thing. After the humidity of the afternoon with the overcast sky, threat of rain and 31°C, feeling that slight breeze, seeing how it made the young almond tree leaves quiver slightly but had no effect on the sturdy old apple tree, was like a gentle caress on the forearm. As if the day was saying sorry for the heat and the glaring sun, for making it so unbearable that the children were inside for most of the day. Within me something lets go, reluctantly nods forgiveness, knowing that really it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and I settle into my book.
Those floating sounds, bit by bit, drag my mind away from the page. Like a child playing peep with a parent who was trying to read the paper. Part of me feels like closing my eyes and letting that breeze flow over me laden with the sounds of summer. The birds twittering high in the trees of our garden, a ball being kicked about by a small child allowed stay up late, the clink of cutlery being set on the table on next door’s patio where Ramadan dinner will be eaten after sunset, the hum of conversations between dog-walking couples, loud enough to register but too far away to understand, the faint, rolling, thunder-like sound of a plane. overhead.
The more I relax, the more I register the other sounds. The less pleasant ones grate on my nerves. Someone nearby is jiggling their keys. I imagine two neighbours caught on the footpath exchanging pleasantries about the heat and will there be a thunderstorm after all, neither wanting to be there, neither wanting to be the unfriendly one. On the main street motorcycles roar past, accelerating unnecessarily loudly in the 30 zone with several roundabouts close together. Next door’s son, done with kicking his ball, squeals inside the open-windowed house, refusing his nightly bath. I imagine his mother regretting letting him stay up despite a few moments ago being glad he was entertaining himself happily. The eternal parental struggle for a balance between routine and spontaneity.
This evening, Saturday, predictably, the smell of a barbecue wafts over. Closing my eyes again I see summer Saturdays of the mid-1980s when we barbecued without a barbecue. Our wheelbarrow did the job. Filled with charcoal and topped with the wire tray, otherwise used for cooling brown bread and scones, it worked. There was a whole ordeal to it. Wheeling the barrow over to the end of the patio to keep the smoke from the house. One of us being sent it to get the wire tray from Mam. Dad making a fuss of making his French dressing in the same old coffee jar with the glass lid. The science of the oil and vinegar emulsion. French mustard for sharpness, sugar for sweetness, salt and pepper to finish it off. In that order. Then shake with both hands., from the wrist, watching for leaks from where the jar meets the lid.
I can’t remember what we ate. Sausages I suppose and burgers. But I remember the air carrying the smells and sounds.