Thursday, 29 July 2010

barefoot in the park

Summer, in London, can be heavenly – or hellish.

Into my collection of memories goes one of each:

Heavenly: a day spent in Regent’s Park with one of my dearest friends. The roses – all 30,000 of them – at their peak. Al fresco lunch at the Garden CafĂ©.

Hellish: shopping for a black suit with a sullen teenager. Tense negotiations over hemlines, the backwash of the summer sales, the cattle-car Tube.

All of that density of humid humanity is just too much for city streets . . . better to spread it out over the 410 acres of Regent’s Park.

Summer is bare feet in the grass – but also standing in line to buy new school shoes.

Summer is a stroll through a rose garden – but also the dutiful trip to the dentist.

Summer is all about hanging out with your friends – but also that bored week at home when everyone else seems to be on vacation.

Give me the summer blues . . . but only if they are delphiniums.

Friday, 16 July 2010

simple things

Forget school, and scratchy woolen uniforms, and the alarm clock going off too early.
Here there is only the pleasure of simple things:

soft, slouchy clothes to wear
and bare feet,
sometimes rubbed down by sand

iced tea by the pool
and cold watermelon, a triangle held in the hand
with juice running down to your elbow

we eat with the appetite of birds, or babies,
little and often,
every meal an outdoor picnic

The sky is cloudless blue every day,
no threat of rain to chase us inside
and interrupt our sun-worship

We give thanks for dependable breezes
and other cooling things:
pool and sea and ice lollies

Not to mention chilled white wine
sangria, the local specialty
and cold beer, of course

And the very best thing?
(besides friends to share the fun
and a laughing, teasing father)

Lots of good books
and plenty of time to read them.

Sending out happiest high-summer birthday greetings to Christina . . .
who has made an art of simple things.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

One fine day

Another sunny day.

For weeks now, I've opened the heavy bedroom curtains to brilliant sun.  This is our fourth summer in England, but the first time we've enjoyed such a long streak of fine, cloudless days.  My flimsy cotton dresses have been dragged out of the back of the closet; usually, they only get an airing when we holiday in warm places.

I love the heat of a proper good summer, but the gardener in me acknowledges that the ground could use a good soaking.  Nearly every night, I'm outside watering the borders until the light begins to ebb and I can feel the damp chill rising from the earth.

Three summers ago, when we planted the new border and the rose/herb beds, it rained and rained.  High summer is not, typically, the best time to put in new plants, but the weather conspired with my impatience.  Only the lavender, which hates being water-logged, really suffered.

This year the lavender is thriving . . . it must think it got transplanted to Provence.

For the first time, we aren't plagued by the black spot on the rose leaves.  But the trade-off is that the roses bloom and quickly brown and shrivel.  They come apart like an explosion of confetti when you touch them.  Last Thursday, when I was at Jane Austen's House, every gust of wind blew a shower of rose petals through the front door.  I kept looking for the phantom June wedding.

I suppose we are all influenced by seasonal rhythm and ritual more than we realize.  I still expect SUMMER to begin on that last weekend of May.  It feels strange to fret, in July, with early morning alarm bells, piano exams and school bags.  The high point of the summer has passed, and yet here we are -- still limping along, trying to adhere to a routine that has lost its relevance.  I'm sure that by the end of August I will long for routine again, but just now I'd like to lay in the grass and listen to the hum of insects.

The raspberry canes are bursting with fruit that no one has time to pick.

We need to spend a day in our pajamas . . . or bathing suits.  It seems a shame to run the sprinklers without some tow-headed child running through them.

Only one more day 'till summer vacation.