July’s a horrible month in Granada. The sun beats down mercilessly from dawn til dusk and if you happen to allow yourself to get caught outside mid-afternoon then it’s damned unpleasant.
But the weather’s not the worst of it.
Granada’s a university city with a fluid population and July happens to be the time when the bulk of the students studying here leave, returning to homes in all corners of Spain. Some of them of course leave for good having finished their degrees. Working here as an English teacher makes it inevitable that these students provide us with much of our work and it’s equally inevitable, that some student/teacher relationships morph into real friendships as the seasons roll on through autumn, winter and spring. Saying goodbye to a clutch of such friends all in one go is profoundly depressing.
And of course it’s not just students who flee the city in their droves at this time of year. Longer term residents also like to get away, up into the hills or down to the breezier fresher coast for the summer. Gap year travellers and tourists also know it’s not the best time to be here. The weather may be pretty intolerable but it’s the loss of friendships and the breaking up of routines that hits those of us who remain hardest.
Mad dogs and Englishmen it seems, are the only ones dumb enough to still be trying to eke out an existence here just now. I went through all this last year and vowed I wouldn’t do so again, yet here I am, trapped and vowing once more to make sure it doesn’t happen next year.
The cumulative drip drip of lost friends now means that when I walk through the city I feel a poignancy at every turn. Here is where I hugged a good friend goodbye, over there is where I last saw so and so, and that plaza over the road is best avoided lest I get all teary eyed again. Daft I know, but July here is like that.
By the time we get to August it won’t seem so bad. The heat will be slightly more bearable purely because we’ll have become hardened to it and the knowledge that autumn is looming will concentrate the mind. In September new students and potential friends will arrive and the city will renew itself. It’ll be a kind of ‘spring’, a human spring. Nature’s seasons will find themselves out of step with the seasons of the city.
But next July, really, seriously, I want to be somewhere else.