My words dropped on the table like a boulder in stormy sea. First came ripples of horrified silence. Then a cataclysmic uproar.
‘You are insane,’ shrieked my mother.
Harsh. But then I had voiced the unthinkable. I had admitted I’d rather spend summer in Britain than in Italy.
I gave several reasons to explain this eccentric preference. Although Britons pay obsequious lip service to wanting to be beside the seaside, you can actually spend a whole summer without ever having to set foot on the beach, which I abhor. Instead, you have the rather more enjoyable Pimms, country house operas, picnics, barbecues, strawberries and cream, and walks in the woods. All this is something that my Italian relatives fail to relate to, but can at least comprehend. What really set them off, what sounded like a profane insult deep in their heart, is that I also confessed I’d rather stay in Britain for the weather.
‘Rain, rain and more rain,’ snickered my unsupportive husband.
Well, yes, it may be a bit drizzly in Blighty, but it never is oppressively hot. I can only recall one night when it was too uncomfortable to sleep, and that was in the sweltering August of 2003.
This of course brings distinct advantages, especially when it comes to property. Throughout summer, our Milan flat is in permanent mourning – lowered blinds, darkened rooms – and never in our right minds would we dare open a window, which would bring in the dreaded heat, sunlight strong enough to discolour our wooden floors, and armies of mosquitoes clamouring for our blood. Worse, despite the bullet-proof blinds, we have had to blow our budget on a mammoth air conditioning system with an Airbus-size engine that no amount of ornamental plants can ever hope to hide. The purring murmur of blowing air is our soundtrack from May to September. It is annoying, environmentally disastrous and tragically expensive. What’s there to like about it?
Hop across the Channel, though, and it’s pure bliss. You save zillions on the aircon (not to mention ornamental plants). You have no need of blinds, the pale, northern sun is innocuous on the carpet, and most mosquitoes froze their butts in winter and are nowhere to be seen. And you have dear old draughty sash windows that let in a gentle, eco-friendly, cost-effective breeze.
So here is my piece of advice for you this summer. If you have a place in the sun, let it out – preferably to my family. You’ll enjoy summer in Britain and a nice rent. And I’ll finally have some peace and quiet.