Ben Lowry: Summer joy but gloom as autumn gets near

Recent summer weather at Helen's BayRecent summer weather at Helen's Bay
Recent summer weather at Helen's Bay
It is always a joy to be in Northern Ireland in July and August.

The weather is typically disappointing by the standards of summer in most other countries, but even so it is much better than it is here for most of the rest of the year.

Yesterday I walked into work in sporadic sunshine and returned amid spots of rain, but it was not at all unpleasant and the temperature was almost warm.

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Another great benefit of being at home in summer is that the traffic is lighter.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting in the News Letter’s main office in Portadown at 9am and the evening before, as I was planning the day, I suddenly remembered that it was July 14 and that I would be able to leave half an hour later than normal because of the absence of rush hour traffic.

By August, however, rush hour is returning, although traffic is still less heavy than the rest of the year.

But while August is still a nice time to be in the Province, for some of us it is a month when gloom begins to descend.

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As a kid I remember well the dreaded the Return to School adverts. Now I find there are other depressing signals that autumn is imminent.

When I heard that today was the start of the football season I had that horrible sense that the best of the summer was gone, given that the sport is so associated with winter.

The worst thing about August is that the shortering days become increasingly apparent. I get a sense of foreboding in August in much the same way that I get a sense of hope and optimism in February, which begins with a slight but noticable increase in daylight, compared to December, and ends with a hugely stretched day and a real sense of impending spring, even if there is snow on the ground.

August is the opposite – still very long days at the start of the month, but alarmingly dark ones by the end.

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For me there is some escape – I try to get to the sun in the autumn. September is the best month on the Mediterranean. Fantastic sunshine but not quite as hot.

Still plenty of beautiful people on the beach but none of the whining schoolkids.

Hotels and flights are a bit cheaper too.

Taking a late holiday has one other advantage. All summer people are returning from their big holiday when yours is yet to come. It is said that deferred gratification is good discipline. Deferring holidays certainly has its reward.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor