I arrived back in Seville at 9pm to 42 ºC heat. It actually felt cool after a stuffy bus ride into the city. There was a bit of a breeze blowing but it was hardly refreshing. It felt, as my family sometimes describes it, like being in an oven with the hairdryer on.
Sleep doesn’t come easily when it’s this hot. The temperature refuses to drop even long after the sun has gone down. Buildings, roads, pavements…they all reflect the day’s heat and pump it out into the night as you wander down the street.
Normal life grinds to an almost complete standstill during the day. The streets are deserted and those who are forced to leave the house chase the shade as much as possible, even if this means crisscrossing the road numerous times, effectively making the journey that much longer. No, life in Seville during summer happens at night.
It’s not unusual to see people taking a walk past midnight. The terraces and bars are filled with joyful laughter and conversation. Summer activities are organised throughout the city with music, drama, open air cinema and other entertainment filling public gardens and plazas with their shows. Yes, life in summer happens once the sun has set.
Unfortunately, some of us have to rest as an early start awaits us the following day. Heat makes this tricky. Add the night life outside your window- which is of course open with the hope that a tiny bit of cool air might make its way in during the night- with the noisy passers-by and it could be quite a challenge.
There you are, eyes closed, head on pillow, lying as still as possible, trying to keep as cool as you can. You are just beginning to nod off when the rubbish truck decides to do its round and noisily rattle down the street, jolting you back from dreamland. You close your eyes again hoping to catch some shut-eye only to be disturbed by the laughter of a loud group of party goers who are headed for a fun night on the town.
Suddenly you seem aware of every single sound. The rhythmic cycle of a bike going by. A car zooming over the cobbles. Some guy raps his way down the street and a lady on her phone complains loudly about a colleague and needing a holiday.
Then, quiet for a bit. The peaceful hum of air conditioning units, unfortunately the neighbours, not yours. A second of silence interrupted by a motorbike zooming past in the distance at high-speed.
Someone shouts an insult from afar. It’s followed by some friendly teasing right below your window and more insults. You can’t quite tell if they’re said in jest or dead serious. You’re tempted to get up and tip a bucket of water over the balcony and onto their heads just to get them to shut up. It finally ends with laughter rattling away down the street, the two of them just as friends as ever.
Someone pulls up a blind, presumably to try to make the most of the sporadic breeze you are also hoping to enjoy, but that for the time being is failing to show up. The net curtains wave slightly, and for a second, a breath of cool air flows in. Your eyelids close, heavy with sleep only to be woken by a pair of heels making their way along the pavement.
It’s quiet again, briefly. Until that annoying mosquito comes back to bother you for the umpteenth time. You blindly attempt to swat it in the dark and fail miserably. Another few motorbikes go by, racing dangerously to the end of the street, riders shouting excitedly. By now you’re getting annoyed. You just want to sleep and the heat is getting in the way.
You’re sweating again already, the effect of the cold shower you took before lying down long faded. You contemplate going to the other room to get the fan. Mosquito bites now itching. You remind yourself it would be a good time to get the air conditioning fixed. You imagine what that would feel like, cranking up the power and you’d soon be peacefully sleeping under the covers.
Not everyone has an AC unit in the bedroom, though. In fact not everyone has AC, full stop. You’d be surprised how many properties are unprepared for the hot weather. Nevertheless, electricity is expensive. So even if you have AC, a low-budget will probably lead to the wise and necessary decision to turn it on for short spells and off until you can bear it no longer and then on again for a short burst of cool, only at the hottest hours of the day.
But enough dreaming. If only it were sleep that was guiding it! You get up to find the fan and fumble in the dark to find an anti-mosquito gizmo. You unplug both and head back to the mattress by the window. You gave up the idea of sleeping in your own bed long before bedtime. It’s much cooler by the balcony window.
You plug-in the fan and the anti-mozzie thing only to realise there was one already plugged in and it had made little difference. They bite all the same and it itches all the same. You settle down again, grateful for the cool air the fan is now blowing around. The phone you are writing your midsummer night thoughts on overheats. Another car. Then sleep.
You wake a few hours later bathed in sweat and gasping for water. You drag yourself from bed to the kitchen in search of cool water from the fridge. You gulp down a glass or two and take the bottle back with you. You set it down by the mattress, head to the bathroom and turn on the cold water tap. You might as well now you’re up. The shower thankfully cools you down a bit but it also wakes you right up. Back in bed, you stare at the ceiling until sleep overcomes you once more, fan still blowing wildly.
Just as the temperature is beginning to drop, the alarm goes off. Now is probably the best time of day, either to sleep or to somehow be productive. A moment when the summer heat won’t turn you into a zombified version of yourself. But the rough night only makes you want to roll over and sleep in the cool-ish morning air.
You eventually drag yourself out of bed and off to work. The thermometer kindly indicates it’s 28 ºC at 7 am. It’s going to be another hot day. But that’s just the way it is in Seville in summer.