THE ENGLISH SUMMER & I
There is no other summer quite like the English summer & perhaps it is this that makes the nostalgia I feel remembering it so overpowering.
Having grown up in England, but residing in Sydney Australia for the last 5 years, the comment I have come to hear the most regarding the small island is about how frequent the rain is, and no wonder since the iconic British rain can never go amiss.
However, only a true Brit can tell you about the joys of the delicate English summer, including the pleasures of the nourishing touch of spattering warm rain. There is a sudden burst of vivacity in all things living, erupting with colour, soft scents and the blooming rapture of wanting to celebrate the outdoors with physical worship.
This charmed and long-awaited encounter with brighter months comes along with silky trepidation and although it arrives boldy, sadly it is never for long enough, allowing us to bask in its ever fleeting warmth with unbridled reverence. Then it is gone, leaving us to wait yet another year. Alas, hasn’t literature always demonstrated for us how the pleasures that seem to slip away are perhaps the most cherished?
POPPY & BARLEY
Every summer in early June till late July a number of us kids would journey off to a summer camp nestled between gleaming, green hills. Sleeping in large military tents and using spring water to wash our faces this was perhaps the closest one could get to nature for so long.
Our tents surrounded a British manor which stood proudly over us amidst fields of barley and rolling hills for as far as the eye could see.
I can clearly recall the parcel which would arrive in late June to keep the kids’ sugar cravings at bay; full of Refreshers sweets, space saucers, Hairbo and various gummy delights.
Only allowed to devour these ruby red candies – which were our favorites – after dinner, we obediently slurped up the warm barley stew in the spacious outdoor dining yard, with the sun warming our backs, and the gentle smell of nearby violets caressing our senses.
Our fingers sticky with candy, my best friend and I would sit cocooned in the field imagining the most elaborate ghost stories with which to scare the other children. Later that day our scare proves so successful that we are reprimanded, our heads hanging sheepishly in the warm July wind.
I think perhaps these summers, though they seemed ordinary at the time and like they would always come around, are some of my most vivid and treasured memories.
GREEN WHEAT & MEADOW SWEET
I am staring up at the luminous, blue English sky. Overlapping foliage sways on a tender breeze in and out of my view as it provides some cooling shade. I lay enfolded deep in the long grass of the meadow,
taking this chance to nestle into the earth, despite the insects and the freshness of the dirt. But I do not care, because this is the birth of English springtime, and one must enjoy its splendor after a colourless, scentless bleak winter.
Sitting up I can smell the grass and I run my fingers along it, each stem reaching up to touch my skin in return. That same soft breeze now gently brushes the hair off of my face and I cannot help but smile at the richness and tenderness of this sensuous Spring.
I observe the deer that graze close by, but are too far to reach out and touch along their creamy, tan coats.
The Richmond park deer are notorious for their beauty, poise and temper. I hope one day to be like these deer and maybe just as iconic.
HONEY & CROCUS
Honey laden pancakes served by my mother on our balcony of the home I grew up in. On the side is a small, porcelain jug of milk, scrumptious rich jams and a bouquet of bountiful spring flowers around which my best friend and I peak over at one another playing a game where we pretend to be characters of our choosing.
As my mum strolls back onto the balcony with yet more honey soaked pancakes sitting on a plate she perfectly complements the balcony’s spring atmosphere, which she has so carefully crafted, with her bold white smile and floral robe billowing behind her in a burst of pattern and pigment. My best friend and I break character in order to keep our game a secret and mirror bold, wide smiles back at her until she turns to leave and we explode into babbles of laughter.
Through the chuckles and gasps for air, I become aware of my best friend’s sudden reliquinishing of laughter, instead she is wearing an expression of frozen alarm. There is a bee sitting in my agape mouth attracted to the lashings of honey. We have to simultaneously hold back laughter and panic until the bee finishes roaming my mouth for remnants of sweetness and finally soars back out into the open arms of the sky.
We breathe a sigh of relief and continue to enjoy our honey haven.
OAT & CORNFLOWER
Here I find myself older, I am coming into my own, standing solidly in my presence and ready to explore a whole new element the abundant English summer has to offer – this is something the Brits pride themselves on greatly, and so they should: this is the time of the Music Festival.
Having traipsed through the mud and set up camp amongst the sea of colored tents, my friends and I flow from band to band as our hearts and bodies feel the intoxicating thunder of the music. The air is musky and heavy with perfumes and cigarettes, yet something sweet penetrates the solid wall of music and breaks through into us. The air is ripe with life and exhilaration. The earth is soft and enveloping under our thrashing feet. We are ensnared.
The food stalls sell syrup-like, sweet cider, which you sip as you recline on one arm and let the golden sun beat down on you as the music envelops you in a booming cloud of rock n roll that shakes you into life, a feeling that will be difficult to let go of.
PRIMROSE & RYE
The sun has created a series of long hazy shadows as it begins to dip slowly behind the stern British architecture.
Sitting in Chelsea we smell the intense smell of the rare mimosa tree with its happy dots of yellow overhead. The air is warm, still and full of promise.
The British embrace this time like no other, they pour out of the pubs gripping their cool drinks and breathe in the heated smells of the street and chat into the night, for once not about the rain.
I never want this to end; a moment in time where you get lost in the rich, hazy, smoky warmth of the English summer. I look down into my Spritz and decide to order another as I know the time to bask in aged pubs in the summer fever never lasts as long as you wish it to.