Belfast Telegraph

Why the living is easy in these summer days

As the holiday season approaches we're promise a heatwave, but even if it doesn't come there's every reason to be happy and relaxed, says Ivan Little

Summertime and the living is cheesy ... around Queen's University at any rate as gaggles of graduates in their hired gowns proudly pose for the family album photographs alongside parents who are suited and booted in rare outings for their Sunday gladrags.

It's a serene and suave style which traditionally heralds the arrival of summer and could scarcely be in starker contrast to the scene three years ago when the then freshers were rampaging through the same streets, in a rowdy proclamation of the advent of winter.

Up the road a bit in a restaurant overlooking the Lagan, the sun briefly blinks through the clouds to send a shimmer of silvery light across the river as happy families tuck into special graduation lunches.

And amid the babble next to me a smartly-coiffeured ex-student whispers about how he plans to let his hair down once his folks have gone home to share their pictures on the internet.

No, nothing says summer quite like a Queen's graduation. But this year for once it appears that the summer in Northern Ireland might just be measured in weeks and days rather than hours and minutes.

For the weather forecasters who normally send chills down the country's spines with their ominous portends of rain and gales are actually warming the nation up with predictions of a heatwave over the next few days.

Which is cold comfort for the sporting enthusiasts among us who will cosy ourselves onto the sofa and not the sun lounger outside as we watch Wimbledon, the Lions crunch game Down Under and cricket's First Test between England and Australia which starts next week.

The only re-assuring bonus as the temperatures at Trent Bridge – and the back garden – soar is that my missus won't have to listen to any patronising husbandly advice about how to do the burgers and the baps. No, she will have the barbecue and the cooking duties all to herself. Not to mention the lawn-mower.

And another splendid isolation upside of a Belfast summer is the loneliness of the short-distance driver.

In July and August the roads become near deserts of calm as the school runs take a back seat and journey times are cut in half – well along those thoroughfares which aren't blocked by protestors or Orange marches.

Not even Danny Kennedy's devious underlings at the DRD which many think stands for Dastardly Road Delayers rather than the Department for Regional Development can make life any tougher for those of us who have to take our cars into Belfast.

For eight weeks in the summer we can scoff at the DRD's insidious bus lanes which are spreading their tentacles around the city quicker than boy-racers can do donuts at Dunmurry.

And the spin-offs from the sunnier summer dispositions mean that even cyclists are given more space and less verbals.

Finding car parking spaces also seems marginally easier in the summer months though finding the small fortune needed to pay for them doesn't get any simpler.

The temptation to use two legs rather than two, or four, wheels for transportation also becomes irresistible in the middle of the year.

Around the Lagan, the air seems sweeter than ever; the greetings from strolling soul-mates are cheerier and the only downside is the danger posed by the remarkable rise in the number of cyclists who sometimes race relentlessly along the towpath, only too arrogantly aware that they are now the kings of this particular road.

But for the danderer, the pedestrian pace in summer is more of a saunter than a surge because there's no need for speed to heat up ageing bones.

And what better after an ambling ramble along one of Northern Ireland's most wonderful waterways than a relaxing alfresco expresso in one of the dozens of coffee houses which seem to have multiplied on every street corner in Belfast.

And let's face it, no hot blooded male in Belfast can have failed to notice that the more the mercury rises, the more the women – or the men if you prefer – of the city rise to the occasion of looking their best while wearing their least.

The only thing missing is the room to stretch out. No other city the size of Belfast can have only a handkerchief of a green space like the City Hall grounds in which to relax.

But summer in the city brings other little pluses. Like a flurry of festivals which range from the Pride parade or the Pride of the Prods processions on the 12th – where hopes of a quiet day are higher than expectations.

In the west of the city too the start of August is also the signal for the start of the fun in the Feile, the biggest community festival in Europe which this year hosts electronica band Faithless.

But down Rostrevor way they're keeping faith with traditional Irish music at the Fiddlers Green festival where Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame and another lady with river connections Sharon Shannon are the big draws.

Of course the summer of 2013 will also see one of Northern Ireland's largest events bursting into life as thousands of participants take part in the world police and fire games which will feature a staggering 56 sports.

And hopefully the province's firemen will get a chance to enjoy the action.

For summer in Northern Ireland has become a notorious hotspot for gorse fires, caused by hapless visitors who start them by accident or by hopeless cases who spark them just for the hell of it.

But for now, let's forget the saddos and concentrate on how the feelgood factor of a lazy, hazy summer can bring a smile to the most miserable face.

Even mine.

Belfast Telegraph

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