How do I remember June? She certainly gave us a performance of two halves.
Her early exploits were dry and warm, with blazing days of open skies, freshness and bright sunshine. Summer was splashed all over June’s opening scenes.
There is such an energy to a sunshiny June. The lightness, the freshness, the intoxicating promise and anticipation: this is what we have been waiting for since last summer was here.
The assembled cast was in full costume. In the valley and beyond, the trees were finally in splendid array, adorned with a mess of green hues from viridian to sage, from lime to emerald to verdigris to jade. A light and lacy mantilla was tossed over the banks and verges to replace their spring fancies: grasses grew tall; ragged robin and ox-eye daisies made bold splashes, the blues of bugle and borage spattered in between.
And then, as the midpoint passed, the scales tipped; the stage darkened. Gone was the sun with its youthful prescience of summer evenings and gaiety. Gone was the freshness; gone was the warmth. Instead came the rain. Clouds were low; ermine mantles wrapped the earth. And when it did not rain, the air hung heavy. Moisture trod the boards on many a day: often warm and muggy, sometimes cold and clammy. Freshness, vitality and bloom seemed to have left the cast list. Midsummer’s Day was garbed in gloom. The first full moon to grace the summer solstice in ninety-four years lay hidden, masked by an unrelenting bank of thick dark cloud.
Disappointing days became the norm. We checked the forecast regularly and bemoaned the many days ahead which were predicted to be merely more of the same. Chilled and squally winds came often from the south, the north and the west: unwelcomed offerings from the seas that surround this peninsular. To be outside was not pleasant.
Were these conditions experienced in October, all would be well. To be outside would be bracing, and enlivened by the boldness of colour as the leaves danced. But to be algid in June does not sit easily alongside her verdant green background. I’ve noticed that on dull days whilst the colours of wild flowers are lifted, the veils of green recede. To come alive, to dance with zest and vigour, green needs sunshine’s spotlight. And surely – of all the players in the theatre of the English year’s weather – surely the colour of June should be green and not grey – and that green should be waltzing?
We have expectations of an English summer that in reality are rarely met. We would do better to expect grey skies as the norm and celebrate the sunshine as sparks of bright flame in an ashen landscape. Will I remember this as next June approaches? Of course not, for an English summer’s day is such a joy, how can we not yearn for many of them? As next June approaches I shall, as usual, reach for my rose-coloured glasses and hope.
Rose-coloured … rosy … roses… My thoughts have unwittingly taken a path which leads directly to where I planned to finish.
Despite her lacklustre later performance, those early, heady June days made their mark. For at that time the garden spoke boldly of abundance and colour and gave us roses. For me, this year marks what may become an ongoing love affair with the roses here at Highfield. I’ve never felt much affinity with the rose. But the roses in our garden – be they basking in bright, dancing sunshine; aglow in the softness of the evening; heavy with raindrops; tightly budded; open in complex perfection; or overblown and blowsy and scattering worn petals – these roses in all their guises, it is they that have shaped my perception of June.
Extract from ‘Song’
‘Tis like the birthday of the world,
When earth was born in bloom;
The light is made of many dyes,
The air is all perfume:
There’s crimson buds, and white and blue,
The very rainbow showers
Have turned to blossoms where they fell,
And sown the earth with flowers.
Thomas Hood (1799 – 1845)