Walking the dog this morning I passed the time of day with another dog walker who remarked: “Bit cooler this morning thank goodness but what a wonderful summer we’ve had so far.”  Must have a short memory I thought and had forgotten about all the rain, high winds and cold weather we had earlier in the month, but that’s how it goes now since many people don’t seem to be able to remember further back than last week.

I suppose it’s all the information that the media throws at us 24/7 if you let it, which apparently allows them to make ‘informed decisions’ – another phrase that Jacob-Rees Mogg may like to ban perhaps along with ‘bear with me a moment’ so beloved by call centre operators.

Anyway, here in St. Mary on the Wold, summer is in full bloom. You can tell that by the number of fully insured expert tree surgeons and garden experts who come from somewhere called “over the back there, sir” and have always just “done a job up the road” and ask if you’d like your trees or hedges cut back. Goes on each year now, with the evidence of their labours dumped in the local main road layby or some farmer’s field.  Still it makes a change from the fridges and freezers that Mr. Nobody dumps unseen in the lanes and gateways at other times of the year.

That apart though, some of the gardens look really beautiful with roses having been particularly brilliant this year, along with begonias and pelargoniums doing particularly well, all credit to people for making such an effort in time, skill and money.

It’s really nice to see some traditional gardens again in St. Mary.  Although few in number they make spring and summer a real pleasure, such a change from gardens with two plastic pots with a flagging miniature conifer either side of the front door and a plastic hanging basket with some half-dead violas or pansies struggling to survive without water.

Some neighbours, finding half-dead plants looking a bit of an eyesore, have solved the problem by replacing them with plastic varieties in plastic hanging baskets.  These look very nice as they distract the casual observer’s eye from last year’s Christmas lights now looking a bit forlorn in the baking summer sun.

Talking of which, we’ve not had dire warnings of water shortages yet which actually does make a change, not that I use much on the garden as I choose to collect rainwater which has run down from the plastic rainwater gutters along plastic pipes and then I store it in two plastic water butts, where it simmers in the sun and grows all sorts of interesting moulds on the surface.  I must say though, whatever is in this plastic really makes the runner beans grow well; we should have enough for many boilings this year!

We’ve been basking in the ‘record’ heat of the last few days. Isn’t it amazing how high recorded temperatures are when taken from the middle of an airfield or from a densely populated city?  Our county city was, for many years credited with the highest recorded temperature each year until the weather recording equipment was moved when the local weatherman retired.  The thermometers in our walled garden reached 113F (note imperial measurement, JRM) last week – temperatures that of course had nothing to do with heat being reflected from the walls so it must be down to climate change of course.  It must have been quite hot though as there are houses here in St. Mary that have been observed with open windows, something that has not been seen since the Queens Jubilee, (the silver one that is).

There is one good thing though, I’ve not heard stories about the summer of 1976 which went on forever and from which only the pluckiest and fittest survived.  Goodness knows how people managed then driving around in cars that had no climate control and working in foundries shops and offices without air conditioning. People must have been really tough those days.

One of my colleagues missed all this beautiful weather by going on holiday to Greece where temperatures under clear blue skies were well over 35C.  Worried about actually getting to the airport on time with all the holiday traffic, the family left a day early and spent the night before they flew from Manchester at a hotel near the airport so as to be sure of getting there on time to catch their flight.  They need not have worried though as the motorway was actually running at what passes for normal these days and their journey was completed on time.  So unusual was this they texted us in the office to tell their remarkable news. However, their flight the next day was three hours late taking off due to technical difficulties with the aircraft and something to do with ‘slot times’ being missed.

My next-door neighbour, now retired and fed up with all the time wasted and undignified security measures at airports, has bought a large mobile home so that he and his wife can explore the UK with all home comforts and no hassle.  It’s an imported diesel-engined model and comes complete with a huge satellite dish which automatically unfolds on the roof and allows them to access all the BBC and Sky TV programs that they would have missed.

They were particularly pleased to find that it came complete with a tow bar which allows them to tow their second small petrol-engined car behind.  Being naturally concerned for the environment this means that they can offset the pollution caused by the 24-mpg diesel with a tax-free low emission car when they want to park up and visit places of interest. Nice of them, I thought, to have taken heed of the warnings from that Swedish girl and that actress who flies all over the world to talk about climate change.

Now, living as we do not far from a tourist town with many interesting cultural and historical venues, we get quite a lot (well actually tens of thousands) of visitors from overseas.  They are easily recognisable from the locals, particularly in the hot weather, as mostly they are smartly dressed and are quite polite and well-mannered as they walk around apparently not at all put off by the littered streets, filthy shop doorways, people lying in the street drunk and all the rest of the cultural sights and sounds that apparently brings them to the UK.

I say they are mostly very polite and well-mannered but there are exceptions. Parties of young French students can get a bit boisterous at times but that only adds to the holiday feel of the town. It’s a bit like being in Majorca or Newquay when schools and colleges are out, and the British youth arrive for the summer.


Part 2 will be published here tomorrow.

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