How to make the inside feel like the sunny outdoors
...and exactly why latitude doesn't matter.
This year's summer solstice gifted us with some beautiful sunshine in Leeds (as well as the rest of England), accompanied by jaw-dropping record temperatures that made us all feel like we'd been suddenly teleported to an exotic island. For several days, our Facebook News Feed kept showing us bodies sprawled under the sun or seeking shelter in the shades and the public discourse was an ensemble of opinions showing the full range from 'So nice' to 'It's too hot!'.
But when everything is back to normal, when shorts and espadrilles have been replaced by warmer footwear and hoodies, you look back at those pictures and wonder if we were all collectively living 'the tropical dream'. And even though we might still have hot days ahead (summer has literally just begun), we're all aware that the most typical English summer is one of capricious turns, of sunny patches and sudden rain, mild temperatures and grumpy, cloudy skies. As a Sicilian living in Leeds, I often hear the question 'How do you cope?', a sentiment of sheer perplexity that seems to unite my Yorkshire and Italian friends.
It's true that ever since I moved to Leeds, my concept of summer has become somewhat 'loose', changing from a fixed list of items and actions to the serene acceptance of a different, maybe more intriguing and unpredictable kind of summer. I remember when I was a child, summer basically meant going to the beach every morning, begging my parents to stay until after lunchtime and always receiving a lecture on the dangers of staying in the sun for too long, especially when it's so hot like in Sicily. But one way or another, the sea was at the heart of our summertime routine, its hues of blue and turquoise reflecting on almost every aspect of our lives and becoming a symbol of summer itself. You could have a swim in the sea or just a walk alongside; you could observe its changes: 'Is it still today? Is it upset?', 'I think it's too cold today, I'm not going in', 'Look, fishes! Oh wait, that's a jellyfish, watch out!'. In other words, the sea became a lifestyle, a 'maritime show' where you always wanted to wear the best (bathing) costume and where the sound of your flip flops on sandy paths and the cicadas on the trees were the soundtrack to a really good time.
However, I've also truly learnt to appreciate the beauty of the English summer. Its being erratic and capricious also means that you're in for a nice surprise from time to time, like the tropical solstice that we just had. I also love the prolonged daylight, something I was totally not used to back home, as well as the chance to see, especially here up North, the very first lights coming up at as early as three in the morning. But this is the point: up until very recently I'd only learnt to appreciate summer over here because of its being 'different' from a lifetime of beaches and sunburns. It was just a couple of weeks ago, more specifically during the Leeds Waterfront Festival, that I finally realised that this difference is actually not so great and there is something I can do to reconcile my 'old' and 'new' concepts of summer.
Leeds Waterfront Festival is a celebration of the city's waterways and cultural heritage. It comprises activities of all kinds and accessible to everyone (for more information, if you don't want to miss out on next year's events, keep checking regularly http://www.leedswaterfrontfestival.com/). Personally, I only took part in the second day's activities, when my mates and I decided to spend a nice Sunday afternoon by the water. As a part of the fun, we decided to go on a boat trip along the canal, which is really the best way to enjoy the spirit of Leeds waterfront. As I sat on the boat, listening to the stories told us by the crew, only interrupted from time to time by the melancholic sound of the harmonica, I couldn't help but think of Sicily. And not just Sicily. Any place on the planet where water, be it sea, river or canal, is celebrated. In fact, it finally dawned on me that no matter where I am, Yorkshire, Britain, Sicily, above or below the Equator, I can always find a piece of summer, of sea, of deep or light blue and bring it into my life. So ever since that day I've been thinking about possible ways to put this new resolution into action. More specifically, I've been asking myself: how can I open the window and let a mild sea breeze bring summer into my flat, even, if not especially, when the rain is pouring down outside?
So, if you're looking to turn your home into your own maritime retreat and don't really care if you live in a city centre flat or you're deeply immersed in the countryside, here are a few ideas:
Evoke the smell of the waterfront with a candle that brings out the notes you love most about your beachtrips. We love the #Sixty candle from Savon Claire, which smells just like a summer day sipping limencello in the sun. Yum!
For those who are currently redecorating from scratch and are considering what colour their new studio or guest room should be, this is probably the best time to go for essentially any shade of blue. Soothing and relaxing, blue has a proven scientific record of lowering the intensity of our brain processes, preventing us from going into over-stimulation.
Seafaring life is a metaphor for adventure, openness to new experiences but at the same time simplicity. So if it's not a massive redecoration that you're planning, there are still plenty of options to let yourself embrace the spirit of summer in a few easy steps. Think, for example, about the nice and calming atmosphere that you can recreate in your bedroom by simply putting together a beach- or ocean-inspired bedding set. You can purchase the finished product or mix and match yourself combining, for example, blue sheets, a sand duvet cover and a green or coral pillowcase.
- not just on the seashore! From mirror frames in your bathroom to centrepieces and decorations throughout the house, seashells literally encapsulate the essence of sea life. My inspiration in this case is this 'tray of seashells' my mother used to keep in the kitchen when we were kids, her own private collection of sea life from all the places she'd been to, from her honeymoon on the Mauritius islands to our hometown's beach. You can DIY your seashell decorations in an infinite number of ways.
Ultimately, whether it's our favourite pair of shorts, our newest pair of boat shoes or a nautical rope bracelet, we can let our body, our home, our whole life radiate summer when and wherever we want. I know most travel agencies wouldn't be happy with me saying this, but summer really is first and foremost a state of mind.