Pushing his nose at the kitchen window this morning like some be-winged bassett hound was an enormous bumblebee. (plus) The garden‘s comeback against the cold driving rain of earlier in the year (all sorts of things just didn’t make it) is a symphony of red hydrangea, darker red calla, salmon pink geraniums, daisies and green green green. Yes, I water. (All pluses – I am never sure of the plural of plus, indulge me). I love the sunlight and walking in the shade of a building with a breeze. (plus) I love the washing drying on the line (plus) and the smell of it, clean and fresh, even in The Smoke. (plus)
A wise friend remarked that you didn’t have to spend much money on summer clothes in this country because you wore them so little, they lasted for ages and although struggling retail prefers to blame the long cold spring and the internet, we can’t go on shopping for Britain. The future is obscure, money is down in value, you don’t buy if you don’t have to. And there is a notable absence of wow in clothes shopping. I don’t shop for white goods ie sheets and towels etc., or electrical bits and pieces unless I have to and in the matter of clothes, fashion journalists keep on writing about “the dress you must have”, “this summer’s shoe”, “bags of style” and I keep shaking my head and muttering “Wouldn’t wear it to the bin”. So we’ll count that as a minus.
It is wonderful to eat every kind of salad (plus) though I belong to the Rabbit Club and eat green every day of my life. Salad is never boring and this year (Skye McAlpine, plus) I found a recipe for panzanella I could make and eat with enthusiasm. I was particularly excited about this because I saw another one a week later which was the bread edition of the limp lettuce, tomato and salad cream of my youth: in a word, ugh.
The range of cosmetic products which can be sold in the summer – endless cream and lotions and boosters and fake tans, masques for the hair, the nails, the feet – divide into two groups, the ones you “need” because you are going away on holiday, and the ones you “need”, presumably to make up for the fact that you are not. I thought the whole idea of sunshine was that I should wear the minimum on long suffering largely misunderstood skin and let the shining Vitamin D do its thing. Yes of course I know that, if I sit in the sun or labour in it, I will need something on bits of the body where the bones come near the surface – sun screen, sun block – dependent on my age and colouring. But makeup in this weather ? No way Jose.
Repeatedly asked where I am going on holiday, I keep on saying I am on holiday – it is called retirement. I don’t want to go away when everybody else is going away. Heaving humanity at points of departure frankly unsettles me (minus) and the idea that I have to go through all that at both ends of an outing stops me from even thinking about going away very much. If you work, a change is as good as a rest. If you don’t work, you use your time the way you can, the way you enjoy it, the way it works for you. Walking around in the relative cool of the morning is lovely (plus) and sitting down with a book is lovely too, though hardly dependent on the season or the weather. It’s my perennial.
Periodically I feed the housework dragon because in this weather you can do all sorts of things, enjoying a task begun and completed, with doors and windows open to fresh air: floors and surfaces dry easily except for the drip under the sink which will require the attention of plumber number three shortly.
When the summer sun first arrives coherently (ie for several days in a row) everyone perks up. Voices soften, smiles are more frequent but you only need one diverted bus and a woman talking into a mobile at the top of her lungs unintelligibly for two hours, to understand that summer is no more perfect than any other season. It’s just hotter, quicker to sweat, quicker to crease.