August, the height of summer, some may think. Or perhaps its depth.Either way this year has been the kind of summer that children store up as memory of all summers. Sunshine and barbecues, icecreams, open windows on hot nights and paddling pools.
In one of those neat word plays, August is named after Emperor Augustus, (after the latin for venerable or consecrated) and originally had only 30 days. It was thought necessary to add another day in order that Augustus might not be in any respect inferior to Julius. Thus Augustus was exceptionally august in altering August. The only Augustus I can think of is Gloop – the air is as heavy and sticky as the chocolate river into which he falls.
People talk of going on their summer holidays around now, everyone, except the squirrels and butterflies, is on a go slow. The greys chatter, like a hissing duck, and rampage, like extras from a dinosaur movie, unseen through the thick canopies, heard before they are seen, and glimpsed briefly as they tear along the boughs like acrobats. There is clearly a female on heat. I wonder where their drey is? Butterfly eggs on the kale; proof of the life cycle.
Meanwhile the heat of the past few weeks makes summer start look past it, and the prolonged lack of rain is leaving everything parched. As Sylvia P. said “the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”
Coming back home after three weeks away the parched grass was a shock. The lettuce bolted. You lose some. But the sweetcorn is magnificent. You win some. The best of our garden flowers have bloomed and now fade to seed heads and brown stalks. Even the sunflower heads stoop forlornly like old men. I can no longer hear the house martin chicks which means they must have fledged while we were away. A sad crumpled soft feathery form on the grass confirms not all flew as they should. Food for the ants; nothing is wasted in nature. The trees, nonetheless hold tall and steady in their green finery. Their deep roots tapping into water far below our feet.
The kids too, have grown tall in the sunshine. Fascinated by empty eggs, hedgehog poo, ladybirds and dead birds. They lose themselves in the raspberry canes. Emerging to look like cannibals, red smeared across their mouths and fingers. Much of our produce never makes it to the kitchen.
It may still be summer to us, but nature never rests. Its perpetual motion can leave us behind. The first signs of Autumn. Cobnuts and sloes. Blackberries appear in the hedgerows. Plums too, for the first time in two years, ripen in our garden, along with apples, quince and medlars – all I can think of is crumbles and compotes. But this is of days to come. Right now I’m enjoying summer’s prolonged last stand, drinking in the sun and letting the kids turn just a little bit feral.