The old Simon & Garfunkel song is a perfect description for today, along with a temperature in the 40s, and rain pouring down.
It feels quite odd to be writing about perfect summer weather.
In the last entry from Susan Hill's marvelous The Magic Apple Tree A Country Year, the spring season, I told you that I almost couldn't believe she was writing about a real place. And her summer season is even more like an English paradise. It is all the things that we Americans think we know about the olde country. It isn't that she brags or paints a rosy picture. Not at all. For example, she tells the not-so-good, as well as the good when it comes to gardening and weather in particular.
No, I'm just talking about all those magical things that we Anglophiles love so much. I think just by listing the words you may understand what I mean.
We do not have them. We have woods, period. In England more than a wood there is a forest.
It is a small wood, as all the best ones are, for small, in woodland terms is friendly and safe. It is forests that are terrifying and impersonal, deadening miles of landscape. Small woods [the plural of her wood, not woods like here] like this one, which is triangular in shape, can be walked in and through and out the other side of, can be known, and there is light at the edges, only in the very heart of it is there that oppressive green darkness, in which you glance over your shoulder, sounds are exaggerated and your heartbeats and breathing come a little faster.We have over 200 acres of woods, which are just as she describes. Since my earliest reading about a "wood" in England, I have recognized that this in what I could be happy walking in. My woods can be dense, they seem endless, and I fear I would get lost. And, I must admit, I've never gone in alone. I love our open fields. I love the little bits of the woods where the loggers have cut down the thickest areas and left open spaces where I can see out "the other side of". When you go hiking in the mountains, it is all slogging through woods until you reach the magnificent views from the top. That is not my idea of fun, though I did it a fair bit years ago. My hiking heaven is a hill in England or Wales where it is all open and you can see for ages. A hike that is magnificence in every step.
And add to that wood a host of bluebells, well that is pretty much my idea of what heaven must be like!
How I love to hear these two words. From the dictionary it sounds like the term originally meant plantings of herbs, but now it means what we call a perennial border. Such a boring word, whereas "herbaceous" conjures up densely planted beauty. I can "see" the words.
Here you might hear "sunroom" but not conservatory. My three windowed study (two south and one west views) is my little homage to the word conservatory. Just now I have six plants in here.
Apparently there are some in the US, but I've never read of them in an American book. I suppose in this case it is the romance of the unknown, but it sounds lovely to me.
Courgettes and Marrow
This book taught me the difference. Courgettes are what we in the US call summer squash and zucchini. And marrows are courgettes run amok. They can be huge. I mean really huge. Susan Hill writes, "Showmen used to put a special glucose drip to their marrows, and on this diet of sugar and water, and rooted in neat manure, a marrow will take over the world."
They have probably changed with the times, but how I would have loved such a thing had I been born earlier. I love the idea of women getting together and doing all the things women did in those days - all associated with home - like baking and jams. But also, from what I've read, there were lectures that gave women an insight into the wider world. Over here, there is (was?) the Grange for rural women, though I think men were in it, too. But nothing like a village group of women like the Women's Institute. Of course, we don't really have villages. We have towns or cities.
Susan Hill writes of village life.
In summer in Barley, as in all the villages around, there are cricket matches, on the playing field at the top of the steep hill called Norman Way, where spectators and visiting batsmen waiting to go in and batsmen who have just got out spend as much time looking out across the Fen to the hills beyond, or lying on their backs watching the clouds drift by as they do watching the progress of the match. In the wooden pavilion, the identical model of every other village cricket pavillion up and down the country, the ladies toil over making sandwiches and the place smells of that white dubbin [prepared grease used for softening and waterproofing leather] that goes on the boots, of urn tea and freshly-cut cucumber and leather, and on the perimeter of the field, among the tatter of hawthorn and elder bushes, the children play in and out, and during tea the small boys have their own few overs on the pitch itself.
These are the sights and sounds and smells of every English village with a cricket team in summer, they are unchanged since my childhood, when I went, Sunday after Sunday, with my grandfather to watch matches in half the villages of Yorkshire.Marquee
It took me a few television shows and books to learn that this is what is known here as a tent. A marquee is the sign that shows what the movie or play is in the US. I love "marquee". It gives the proper respect to what goes on in there, whether a party or a wedding or some other special occasion.
We might have town bands that play in the bandstands on a summer night, but not brass bands. I love the sound of them. They can go from jaunty to deeply sad from song to song. There is a wonderful movie from 1996, which features a brass band - Brassed Off.
I have to admit that caravan sounds much nicer than trailer or RV.
Okay, I'll stop, but all of them were mentioned in just the summer section of this book. A country rich in language.
I was very interested in Susan Hill's journal of how her vegetables did that summer. She was a serious gardener. I wonder if she still has a vegetable garden.
Even in those early years of the 1980s, she speaks of a subject much talked about now.
The loss of hedgerow and coppice and individual trees, in the corn prairies of East Anglia and the Wolds, is a dreadful one.I can remember sitting in the waiting room at the dentist with the kids when they were really quite small and reading a National Geographic magazine about the coming of fields and the loss of hedgerows. I believe the article was by Bill Bryson. So, this has been going on a long time. There is a most encouraging 2019 article here about hedgerows.
And now I am going to read both Gladys and Susan's chapters on autumn. What wonderful reading this has been, even though I haven't been as timely as I planned to be.