The English have a reputation for being obsessed about the weather. It is a reputation fairly earned, as well it might have been given the weather’s propensity for rapid change and a natural tendency towards misery.
The Spanish, it turns out, are similarly obsessed, despite the fact that – in Madrid at least – the weather changes only about four times a year. For the Spanish the weather is either too hot (June to September), too cold (December to March), too wet (February to April) or just right but in all likelihood about to change for the worse (May, October and November).
It is said to be said by Madrileños – according to Lonely Planet anyway – that Madrid’s weather consists of eight months of winter followed by four months of hell.
This is absolute nonsense. Hemingway, who coming from Illinois knew a thing or two about extreme weather, maintained that Madrid had ‘month in and month out the finest climate’.
I can’t speak to all of Spain but put me in Hemingway’s camp as a fan of Madrid’s climate.
First, being essentially built on a high desert plain, it is bone dry. Really, you haven’t seen dry until you’ve been in Madrid. You can watch it rain cats and dogs for 40 minutes, go outside two minutes after it stops to find the ground completely dry. I kid you not. It is absolutely amazing, as if either he ground or the sky is a giant suction device that simply hoovers up every drip of moisture it can find.
There are disadvantages to this of course. We’ve killed a lot plants. Filling the swimming pool costs about the same as filling a 747 with aviation fuel. And when I play golf in the summer I carry roughy the same weigh in water as I do in irons, and it is never, ever, enough.
But on a day to day basis, ambling around the Retiro or heading out for dinner, it makes 35 degree days a lot more tolerable than they are in say, Bangkok, where the 14 metre walk from the Conrad Hotel to the office is too far and where I have to change clothes about four times a day.
Madrid can be blisteringly hot, particularly in July. The first summer we were there I genuinely wondered how we would cope in a house without air conditioning. The only way to deal with it sometimes is literally to sit still or bathe regularly in ice cold rosé.
But, and here’s the thing, you a) get used to it and b) don’t have to stay during the worst times.
It also – and here a lot of my friends would disagree with me – never really gets cold. A couple of degrees below for a few days in the first quarter of the year maybe. But you’re just as likely to find yourself basking in 17 degrees and sunshine in January, and that’s wonderful.
And when the weather is truly fantastic, as in the past three years it has mostly been in May and from the second half of September for a couple of months, it is genuinely spectacular. Warm, sunny and comfortable. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that one day we will return to live in Britain, and those glorious days are what we’ll miss the most.