By the time this is published, the canicule, or heat wave, is over. But for about a week, it was just a tad too hot. And hardly anybody, ourselves included, has air conditioning in the south of France.
The word canicule comes from canine, as in the dog days of summer. It’s because Sirius, the brightest star in constellation Big Dog, or Canis Major, rises and sets with the sun in late July–often the hottest period of the year.
The south of France is called le Midi, which sounds like middle, but it means middle of the day–noon. It’s the region where it’s always noon. Italy uses the same terminology–the mezzogiorno.
We really shouldn’t complain–the hottest it has gotten was 36 Celsius, or 97 Fahrenheit. However, the nights never really cooled down–sometimes only to 27 C (81 F). This compares to averages for July and August of 27-28 C (81-82 F) for highs and 16 C (71 F) for lows.
Despite no precipitation since an incredible rainstorm in mid-July, the moisture has stuck around. We have the first summer dew I’ve seen since moving here and the grass is holding onto an aura of green. Usually it would be dry straw. OTOH, we haven’t seen the firefighting planes this summer either.
We open all the windows at night to let in the coolish air, then close them when the sun starts to hit the house. The shutters, too, get closed. We hide in the penumbra, not moving too much. On entering the house from the pitiless sunshine, it feels surprisingly cool, but one soon adapts, and even inside it seems too hot.
My brain melts. I can’t focus. A fan blows straight on me, and I get an earache on the side it’s on. But I can’t take turning it off. My computer melts down a few times, refusing to toil on because it’s too darn hot.We eat food that doesn’t require cooking: salads, melon with prociutto, tomatoes and peaches stuffed with tuna.
The village looks drained of color, the beige stone and stucco dazzlingly bright and the shadows so sharp and black. Nobody is out. A cat sleeps in the shade under a car. Even the birds seem to be hiding in the shade. Only the cicadas thrum deafeningly, starting as early as 8:30 and continuing until almost 10 p.m. Peak summer torpor.Finally, some clouds come through, bringing lots of lightning and thunder though the rain is limited to a few drops. It is amazing to feel the suddenly cool, almost cold, air blow in with the storm. Today we’re going to have a high of 27 C and a refreshing low of 17 C, right on the average, and it looks like the rest of the month will be the same–warm enough to feel like summer but not uncomfortable. Thank goodness!
How do you beat the heat?