Monday, 12 August 2013

The last throws of summer

July fades almost unnoticed into August. Soon new school uniforms need to be brought, and evenings are increasingly cool. Thoughts of these are temporarily pushed from our minds and we turn instead to daisy chains and catching grasshoppers, bank holiday gatherings, waving bunting and BBQs. A noticeboard poster reads a very British sentence: "Summer fete on the green (or in the village hall if wet)".
Despite shortening days, summer spirit is high with garden parties, vintage revivals and days at the races; posh frocks sheltering beneath umbrellas and marquees from squalls of thundery rain.

One morning late in the month, we wake not to the sound of screaming swifts, for they have left our shores; we will not hear their screams again until light days lengthen. They are replaced instead by a wind that catches in the trees and heralds a change in the weather.

Whilst doing the dreaded supermarket shop this week I found myself soothing the frustration of air-miles and same-old same-old, with a guilty pleasure meander along the magazine aisle. Outside in the cool of late afternoon, light weight jackets are replacing cropped tops and the sound of flip-flops across the car park is becoming less frequent. It seems autumn has arrived in the magazine world as throughout the lifestyle and countryside section, sunflowers beamed at me from front covers, whilst their neighbours were festooned with garlands of coloured leaves, russet-hued subheadings celebrated apples and hedgerow harvests, and from between the pages hedgehogs and dormice peered inquisitively.

Walking home I pass through our local community orchard, and smile at the sight of ripening apples and pears. A scrumped plum is the most delicious thing I taste all day. Amongst the brambles, where the path winds behind the small industrial estate, a comma butterfly basks in the late afternoon sun and a blackbird pecks and pulls at finger-staining blackberries.
A few bees bumble between the buddleia’s purple blooms or linger in the lavender flowers that scent the garden as I brush past, but my sunflowers are fading, faces turning earth-wards and leaves withering to brown.  
I know beyond the town, tractor wheels and combines turn, from farm to field and field to farm they work the daylight hours, slaying the golden corn that swayed in the summer breeze, a wary eye on clouds rolling over the downs.

The remainder of the afternoon passes, humid with the promise of a storm, and it seems, almost whilst my back is turned, evening falls.
There is a rumble in the distant night and the wind blows stronger. Along the street neighbours call pets in from dark gardens, children are reluctant to sleep; nerves sing. The air is charged.
A blinding blue flash illuminates a steel curtain of pelting rain and the thunder rolls and rolls. It has arrived.
As the lighting fades and thunder is soothed, beyond the bedroom window the cooling rain settles into a steady rhythm, with a repetitive percussion beat from the overflowing gutter.

The following morning dawns all golden light, shadows and mackerel-striped sky. A flock of grey geese lifts with their strange haunting song from a stubble field. 

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