Today we are one week into July. Over half way through the year. Summer solstice was on the 22nd June, so – O.M.G – the nights have started to grow longer again. Imagine if you lived in northern territories? No sooner have the dark, dreary winter nights given way to bright, balmy summer days than the cycle begins all over again. What is it about the hours of daylight after supper in summer that enable me to get things done, including a long walk down the Sea Front? What is it about the dreary hours of darkness that descend in winter even before supper that renders me incapable of anything more ambitious than curling up on the sofa with a hot water bottle?
This year ‘flaming June’ just managed to live up to expectations: on the final day of the month it was 30 degrees Celsius. That is 86 degrees to anyone who still uses Fahrenheit. Hot!
Have you noticed the exhortations at every rail station to “carry water at all times” – might make more sense if they mentioned drinking it! And “please avoid travel at peak times”. Since when did any of us need to be told that? Seriously? There are people out there who have not realised that it is less crowded outside rush hour? And what is this emphasis on water? When I reflect on the five years of my youth spent in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) I do not recall ever fussing about water. And I most definitely did not lug heavy bottles of water around with me as I cycled to school or round to my friends. The only time I recollect carrying water was when my Father took us out “bundu-bashing”. We six kids plus the parents would pile into the Land Rover and drive to some isolated country spot to trek through the bush for a couple of hours. On returning to the vehicle, my Mother would produce a battered basket with four bottles of water, one bottle of Mazoe Orange Squash and eight glasses. Nor did we leave our mess behind. Quite apart from the fact that the bottles were glass and re-usable, we children always had to pick up any discarded wrappers etc to take home to be binned.
What come to mind when you think about summer?
My strongest memories of summer are long, light evenings with my Mother sitting in the living room nursing brother number three while watching Wimbledon on our recently acquired television set. Like so many people, my Parents had bought the television in order to watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The French windows were flung open and there was a vase of roses on the bookcase. The sound of tennis balls hitting racquets always evokes these images. I recall how my parents laughed when the commentator pointed out that a player aged 39 would soon “be too old to play” – at that stage my Father was forty. And strawberries. My Mother grew all our fruit and vegetables in those days and there were three rows of strawberry plants in the vegetable garden. There is nothing that says “summer” more than the taste of a freshly picked strawberry still warm from the sun.