Category Archives: summer

Signs of Summer

elder.flower

As I walked along Canterbury’s  Saint Peter’s Street on Saturday I saw a sure sign of Summer. Not the gaggles of French and Dutch teenagers squeezing into the pound shops, nor the obedient American and Japanese tourists following their guides’ uplifted, unopened, umbrellas.

No, It was the cherry lady from Faversham, but selling gooseberries this time. She promised ‘cherries next week’.

I bought gooseberries.

gooseberry.jam

That afternoon as I was cycling home from visiting friends,  I sought out the elder flowers needed to make the best gooseberry fool and gooseberry jam. Along the Crab and Winkle cycle path they were as unpolluted as anywhere.

Mrs T made the fool, and froze some puree to make more when summer is mere memory. It all went. Polish friends could not get enough of it, nor could I. Maybe the spare puree won’t make it till Christmas!

And I made the jam.

But yesterday there were cherries in town.

Summertime can begin!

cherries

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At this table

shared.table.porthamel1.jpg

A meal in the garden in the company of friends is a great blessing, one Mrs T and I shared this week in Wales. Good local food well cooked. Our friend’s granddaughter has a chef for a brother and seems to share his love for cooking – one passed down the generations!

There was talk of the brother as well, of course, of cabbages and kings. The lad takes a pride in his work, to the extent that he has persuaded his bosses to buy butcher’s meat and fresh fruit and vegetables so that he could prepare better meals at no extra cost. He is feeding young people on activity holidays.

‘And now, instead of frozen, ground down whatever and jars of sauce, they have spaghetti Bolognese with proper, lean minced beef and sauce from scratch.’

…….

I hope you enjoy a few outdoor meals this summer, and that the cooks enjoy them as well as the diners. The next day was bread and cheese for just the two of us, halfway up a hill in Herefordshire. That was enjoyable too: we’d walked up an appetite!

 

At the end of the ride

Not even the birds could persuade us to linger at the motorway services, and we soon found our way to Shropshire, and Ludlow. Where Canterbury has a farmers’ market in the old railway goods shed, Ludlow has a brewery. Even on a Monday morning there were people enjoying the sun and the beer. We saw no reason not to join them.

ludlow.br.3

Impressive plumbing behind the bar, where we bought a sample of three small glasses of different beers; all very good.

From our seat on the mezzanine floor, we were able to appreciate the physical labour that goes into producing the beer. The mash tun was being cleaned out, but was obviously still very warm for the man dismantling the filters. In the old days he would have been allowed beer ad lib; today he had a pint glass of good Shropshire water. Probably as well, all three we tasted were very drinkable, but might leave the drinker a little unsteady on those steps.

 

Soaking up the sun

The day was warm enough for Mrs T to seek the shade when we stopped at the Oxford motorway services. Perhaps that was why the starling took no notice of us as it sat, wings spread out, feathers fluffed, soaking up the sun, maybe half blinded by it.

The bird was so relaxed that only the arrival of the caretaker, emptying the bins, persuaded it to move into a nearby bush. Had it even noticed the two red kites, skimming the trees, barely six metres above us?

They noticed us humans and departed. He survived their survey,

 

The Lady of the Woods

 

birch.lady

We are always talking about looking and seeing, here at Will Turnstone. When we took Abel out to the woods yesterday we found this invitation to look at Betula, the Lady of the Woods. Isn’t she lovely? Find one of her sisters near you and enjoy the sight.

Here is something I’ve been saving till the right picture turned up. This one is good enough to accompany this passage from Nan Shepherd’sThe Living Mountain’. A writer may reveal what the reader more than half knows, awakening joyful recognition in her audience.  I was reading to learn about the Scottish Highlands, but I discovered something all-but known about the birch I see as I open the curtains or come home: the birch. Here is Shepherd on p53:

Birch … that grows on the lower mountain slopes, needs rain to release its odour. It is a scent with body to it, fruity like old brandy, and on a wet warm day, one can be as good as drunk with it. Acting through the sensory nerves, it confuses the higher centres; one is excited, with no cause that the wit can define.

It’s always good to return home even from a quick walk to the shops. There is magic in fingering the keys as I approach under the lime trees – trees that may not flourish on Cairngorm but here share their bee-sung, scented glory every summer. Birch is wind-pollinated, needing no nectar, but its fresh-air scent, which I barely register even in wet weather, is part of coming home. I never realised till Nan Shepherd told me! And the blackbirds sing louder in the rain.

We occasionally berate the birch for its scattered seedlings, which occupy any bare earth and even take root in garden walls. As Rome fell away from Britain no-one removed the young trees, and the towns crumbled.

Not far from here at the derelict mine, a birch forest has sprung up on the spoil. Silver birch, I called it as a child – but it is pure gold in Autumn.

Do seek out Nan Shepherd’s book and see, hear, smell, feel with her.

Silence in the City?

 

It’s a good question. Any time of the day or night, there will be cars, lorries, a train, aircraft; or humming machinery: the fridge, restaurant ventilation fans. Even listing them raises my blood pressure.

Today I had a couple of hours alone at the L’Arche Glebe garden: I can still feel a ‘noise’ in my finger tip which received more than its share of stings whilst I was weeding. But generally I could dismiss the traffic noise, the passers-by across the River Stour, and just be nearly silent in my own (nettled) skin.

One interruption I welcomed, a sound familiar from childhood when I lived near an RAF training ground: a Tiger Moth biplane, which turned an arc around the city centre before leaving me to my nettles. No harm in feeling six years old again, if only for thirty seconds.

Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3.

I was already allowed my own patch of garden by the time I was six; now I am growing flowers for my daughter’s wedding!

But back to silence. We were at a concert last night and I enjoyed how a big kettle drum could be louder than all other instrument in the orchestra, yet two of them together suggested profound silence.

 

What is silence

but the pulse of the beloved,

caressing the ear.

WT

Tiger Moth by Towpilot

After the rain

2.00 p.m.: it was the summer storm we’d been waiting for, though not predicted by this morning’s weather forecast. A good 25mm, 1” of drain-blocking rain in an hour. Before I tackled that little job (and I would have waited for Abel, had I known he was almost on the doorstep) I looked out of the back door.

The rain had ceased. Movement in the apricot tree: a song thrush decided it was time to dry herself off. An all over shake; spreading first the left wing, then the right, preening each with her bill; fanning the tail and giving that a good shake, followed by a dance move no human could copy: head thrust forward and down, feathers all fluffed, then three or four undulations from head to tail. That did the job! Satisfied, she preened herself once more and flew away.

I’ve seen few thrushes in our garden over the past few years. It was an extra pleasure to witness this intimate moment in her life.

bbc.video of thrush