Summer in America or England for the racing season there, and then back home to Australia for yet another summer. I didn’t see a winter until I was thirteen, and it was a couple of years later before my brother and I witnessed snow for the first time – our excitement still feels tangible to me. By then, we had left Australia and moved to England permanently, where my dad had set up a racing team of his own. I was devastated to say goodbye to Australia and my friends, and eventually I would write about being torn between two countries in my debut novel, Lucy in the Sky.
Now, all these years later, I choose to live in England with a family of my own, even though I have an Australian passport and my parents and brother returned Down Under when I was in my early twenties. Many people have screamed ‘why?’ at me over the years. Yes, I miss my family and those same childhood friends terribly. Yes, you can feasibly go to the beach after work (unless you live inland, in which case seeing the ocean is as rare for some as seeing the snow was for me). And yes, yes, yes, the sun shines more in Australia. But much as I appreciated my upbringing, I don’t crave continuous summers. Living in the UK makes me value the seasons. They say the English always talk about the weather – of course we do, every sunny day feels like a celebration; we don’t take them for granted.
This summer, well, I’ll be mostly in beautiful Cambridge where we live. My parents and brother will be here from the other side of the pond, we have four weddings to go to (hopefully no funerals), and I might even attempt punting again on the River Cam (I tried it once and almost fell in – total respect for the people who do this as a job). Most of all, I hope to do no more than spend several sunny days in the garden with my two kids as they splash around in the paddling pool. (No hosepipe ban here, although I still solemnly swear to recycle the pool water for the veggie patch).
But as for the summer that most sticks in my memory, I have to go back to 2007. I was heavily pregnant with my first baby, we had just moved into a house, but had a stressful bridging loan because we hadn’t yet sold our apartment. I was trying to write my second book, Johnny Be Good, and just couldn’t get my head into it because I was so consumed with what impending parenthood would bring (I ended up writing most of it in the three months after my baby was born). That August was one of the worst in my memory, weather-wise. People kept assuming I’d be delighted to not be heavily pregnant andhot, but I felt as gutted as the rest of them that our days were perpetually overcast. I don’t know if mid September can still be classed as summer – probably not – but that’s when my son was born, and, challenging as the year had been up until that point, in that moment, I can honestly say that everything felt perfect.