THE SEASONS (4)

SUMMER

The stooks of corn

Stooks of corn in late summer – a rare sight even in 1970.

According to some so-called experts summer begins on the first of June, and ends on the thirty-first of August. If you take midsummer’s day as the middle of summer (the longest day falls in late June) then the season is rather earlier in the year and begins in May. It would end in July if each of the four seasons took up a quarter of the year. August however is seen as High Summer, when the kids’ Summer Holidays are taken, rather than Early Autumn; the fact is you cannot date the seasons so precisely. They proceed according to a timeless sequence of their own, not to the human calendar. Some years May Day seems quite summery; in others years it may still seem like spring. Early September is normally synonymous with late summer weather, and October is the beginning of Autumn not the end; all the seasons overlap somewhat. Winter showers can easily fall while the first spring flowers are poking their heads out. Autumn leaves may not even have turned colour by Guy Fawkes, or they may have all fallen by Remembrance Sunday.

I like the long hours of daylight that accompany summer as much as the warm weather, and while the latter is always doubtful, the lengthening days are immutably fixed. The mornings are enlivened by the song of birds and the tweeting of their chicks as they make their first faltering steps into the world, to be followed by learning to fly. It is the mornings and  evenings which I like best in summer; then the heat of mid-day is abated, and the morning dew provides some moisture for the plants. In the long light evenings it is pleasant to relax in the garden, perhaps sipping a cool drink as the sun goes down.

I find the imposition of British Summer Time slightly bemusing. It used to be called Daylight Saving, but it does absolutely nothing to alter the hours of daylight. For a few weeks it may alter whether we eat our breakfast cornflakes in the darkness or in daylight, but soon enough sunrise retreats into the wee small hours, when we are all asleep anyway.  I believe it was only introduced because we are a lazy nation, who over the centuries have got up later and later. The farm labourer used to be up and at work by six, preparing his horse for the day’s ploughing; now seven is early enough for many office workers to begin the day. BST tricks them into being farm workers once again. Until the coming of railways produced a uniform time across the country, time was regulated by the sun. You set your clock to read 12 midday when the sun reached its zenith.

Summer is the time many people associate with the seaside, but that is merely to eat ice creams on the beach. For me the many different moods of the sea make it a year round fascination. Above all summer is the growing season, when the crops that will tide us through the year are coming to fruition. We have lost sight of this basic truth in the hectic modern life of the city, but without it we would all starve. Perhaps one day we may be able to survive on plants grown indoors under artificial light, but that time is far in the future.

As I grow older the seasons come and go with an ever-increasing speed. I have hardly had time to take my summer clothing out of the wardrobe when the days start to draw in again. I used to dread the return of the cold weather, but now that I can look forward to evenings by the wood burning fire the progressing seasons hold no terror for me. Let Old Father Time do his worst.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

FOR EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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