What you probably thought I was going to talk about is s’mores by the campfire or jumping off rocks into the lake (okay, I’ve never done this but people much, much, braver than I have) or staying up late (or getting up early) to see the Perseids meteor shower or complaining about the neighbours across the bay who think everyone wants to hear their egregious hip-hop music way past bedtime. But you would be mistaken.
Aside from finding new and exciting things to do with rhubarb (rhubarbade! rhubarb bread! rhubarb pickles!) the two things you can predict I’ll do every summer without fail are reread books and rewatch DVDs.
Despite having witnessed 20 years of technological innovation since building the cottage, we have yet to solve the internet availability problem that comes with an island property. Yes, I’m aware Starlink exists, but I rankle at continuing to pay for it during the six months of cottage dormancy and moving it back and forth is not an option. So the Worldwide Web remains a rationed commodity, not that there’s anything wrong with that. You already know my solution: reread, rewatch, repeat.
For rereading, I always start with The Hunger Games trilogy. Spoiler alert: Katniss prevails. Then I move on to other dystopian stories via Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series, also a trilogy, where (spoiler alert) some humans prevail, and some don’t, and the earth is left a little worse for wear. Often, I also renew my acquaintance with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which is (spoiler alert) a tale about an orphan who steals a painting and becomes a drug addict and redemption ensues.
Subsequently, I might tackle Dickens’ Bleak House, which I’ve persisted in carting about (through twenty moves) since I was forced to read it in first year English in 1974. Clocking in at 665 densely packed 8-point-type pages, it consumed countless hours of my carefree youth I will never get back. And (spoiler alert) it’s too complicated to even attempt a spoiler alert. Alas, I’ve failed to learn to avoid weighty tomes on occasions that should be more light-and-lively. I once brought both The Poisonwood Bible and Angela’s Ashes as my reading list on a winter vacation in Mexico. (Google them.) But looking up from the description of a moldy, flooded row house in a dark, dank Dublin winter and seeing the sparkling Pacific Ocean is definitely not a bad thing.
I’m not at all embarrassed to say my rewatching roster centers around a boxed set of Thirtysomething. In case you are unfamiliar (What??? How could you be???), this series came out in the mid 1980s and featured a bunch of thirtyish yuppy friends grappling with what is currently called adulting. My ex-husband referred to it as the “I’m not happy and I don’t know why” show and I must admit he was pretty accurate in that assessment. But its bullseye depiction of working life in the 1980s is without reproach.
For example, Hope, who was married to angsty Michael, wore orange swing jackets with stick pins in the lapels. Nancy, who was married to, then unmarried to, man-child Elliot, wore denim jumpers over XXL T-shirts, complete with the all-purpose Velcro enabled shoulder pads I relied on back in the day. Singleton Melissa wore mismatched dangling earrings with artsy-irony and the equally unpartnered Ellyn rocked lacy black camisoles under her red power suits, which did not prevent her from having unerringly bad choices in workplace boyfriends. Married or not. But being able to time-travel back to the impossible youth of being under forty is definitely not a bad thing.
Other cringe-worthy things I always rewatch include Bridget Jones’s Diary, because who can resist Colin Firth. Or resist Hugh Grant. Because clearly Bridget (nor I) cannot. Julie and Julia, because aprons and pearls at the same time. And always, The Devil Wears Prada, because Andy eventually learns Miranda, does not have the power to take possession of her soul, and because having crappy jobs and crappy bosses and persisting none-the-less is definitely not a bad thing.
But isn’t summer all about reaping the rewards for slogging through sleety fall and slippery winter and slushy spring? For me that reaping involves the cozy comfort of a well-thumbed book and a cheesy rom-com. That’s all.