The Summer’s about to go, but we’ve still got the roses

A couple of days early, perhaps, but as we prepare to wave goodbye – in calendar terms anyway – to the summer, the last three months have certainly produced a season of contrasts compared with flimsy summers of recent years.

 

 

Nearly September and the geraniums have only just reached full bloom
Nearly September and the geraniums have only just reached full bloom

The Weather:

As it’s Britain, we have to start with the weather and in keeping with the bizarre climate patterns of 2013, this summer certainly did not disappoint.  Following one of the coldest, and certainly the latest, spring on record, it took only a couple of days into June before the harsh, east wind of the previous four months was suddenly replaced by still, warm days of glorious sunshine.  And, with the exception of a few downpours – coinciding, of course with my cycling days out – it pretty much stayed like this for the next three months. Consistent temperatures around the mid 30 degrees mark created an almost Mediterranean atmosphere at times, and sitting out in the garden on long, balmy evenings was a long-forgotten pleasure.

 

 

Hardy survivors from the bitter spring
Hardy survivors from the bitter spring

The Garden:

The eccentric weather has been accurately reflected in the idiosyncratic growing patterns of plants in the garden.  As I write, on the penultimate day of August, the geraniums are blooming as if it were still high summer and the mountainous Buddleia has retained its pristine white floresence long after its traditionally short flowering season in mid July.  Deep crimson impatiens, which arrived as feeble little plugs in the cold spring, now cascade out of their tubs and the blackberries have already produced enough fruit for daily use, as well as for the freezer.

 

 

The gorgeous peacock butterfly
The gorgeous peacock butterfly

Butterflies:

But the real highlight of the garden has been the return of the butterflies; in particular, after a sad absence of several years, the small tortoiseshell.  After pessimistic reports forecasting the demise of the entire Lepidoptera species, waves of dazzling peacock butterflies arrived appeared in July, followed by their pretty small tortoiseshell cousins in August.  And today, two gorgeous red admirals have now been spotted on the Buddleia.

 

 

 

Poppy the Pashley: perfectly at home
Poppy the Pashley: perfectly at home

Bikes:

June saw the arrival of a new member of the bike family – and what an appropriate debutant!  The pastel blue of Poppy the Pashley has been perfectly at home amongst the summer blooms and the warm early evenings have provided ideal conditions for a passeggiato on wheels round the village.

 

 

 

 

Lovely sunny days: ideal for lovely long rides
Lovely sunny days: ideal for lovely long rides

Cycling:

The high temperatures may have been a little uncomfortable for cycling at times, but it sure more than made up for the below zero temperatures and Siberian winds of the early part of the year.  The agreeable conditions also tempted me to get back on the Cannondale (thanks Patrick for the servicing) and experience, again, the exhilaration of cruising along dry roads with only a gentle breeze as your headwind.  It’s also really encouraging to see how popular road cycling has become and, especially, how it now attracts people of all ages and genders.

 

 

The 77 year wait for a men's Wimbledon champion, justifies the celebration
The 77 year wait for a men’s Wimbledon champion justifies the celebration

Miscellaneous Highlights:

The standout has to be the late afternoon of Sunday July 7 when Andy Murray finally overcame Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon.  I’ve watched the tournament each year since I was five and I never thought I would ever see a British man win the singles title: it was suitably historic and emotional.  And, maybe as a result of that, I finally re-joined the local tennis club, bought a new pair of shoes and signed up for some coaching – very necessary after 20 years away from the courts – and, so far, pleased to say, it’s going well.

 

Even amongst the regular horror stories dominating the news these last few months there have been some uplifting examples of human courage and integrity: the local and national protestors against fracking deserve mention, as do the majority of decent and humane people throughout the country who continue to vehemently oppose the shameful and barbaric badger cull, and even the sensible majority of MPs who voted against any further war mongering in the Middle East.  These may be small chinks of light, but are significant, nevertheless.

 

Buddleia: the butterfly plant
Buddleia: the butterfly plant

Autumn Preview:

So, finally freed from the constraints of school holidays, I can look forward to spending some of September in Scotland.  The unspoilt, undiscovered delights of Galloway (including, hopefully, the Wigton Book Festival) await, as does a return to Glasgow and its wonderful cafe society, plus the Trossachs, with possibly another circuit of Loch Katrine in its russet autumnal glory, on the cards.

 

It’s been a summer to remember, but now I can’t wait for the autumn.

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Waiting for a Delivery

Having recently fulfilled one of my all-time ambitions and become the proud owner of a pretty, Wedgwood blue Pashley Poppy – a smaller and sweeter version of its better-known big sister, the Princess – it has quickly become my favourite round-the-village bike, receiving many and varied compliments from the friends and strangers who we meet on our rides.

My shiny, new Pashley Poppy, just out of the box
My shiny, new Pashley Poppy, just out of the box

 

But, although over-the-moon with its looks, practicality and performance, it lacks one accessory I consider integral to complete the Pashley look – whereas the Princess has one as standard, the Poppy does not arrive with the de rigueur front wicker basket.

But, no worries, Pashley accessories are readily available on the the internet, so I duly order one online and begin, impatiently,  counting the days until it arrives.

Well, if it’s in store on the Wednesday, then looking through my completely full glass, I reckon I might even be in luck on Thursday morning. But, damn, I’ll be out on Thursday until the middle of the afternoon; just like the thing if it arrives on the one morning I’m not at home for the next few days. But, relief, I arrive home around three to find no offending, accusatory “You Were Out” cards behind the letterbox.

Friday: it’s now a couple of days since it should have been dispatched and I’m becoming a little anxious. I wait in all morning, taking an unhealthily prurient interest in the comings and goings of the courier vans up and down the street. It’s hot and I really do need to take advantage of this unseasonal sunshine (it’s July, after all, when, in normal years, it invariably rains) to fit in a bike ride. Two hours on, trying painfully to cool down in a cold shower, I curse my stupidity at waiting in until early afternoon before riding 20 miles in 32 degrees of heat.

Over recent years, while clocking the regular deliveries of a former neighbour, who appeared to make his (fairly lucrative) living buying and selling on eBay, plus using my own experience of never being in when Parcelforce delivered my annual bundles of exam papers, I’ve become frighteningly knowledgable about the patterns of courier deliveries to our street. So, as it’s now Saturday, using the fruits of my research I calculate there’s no chance of a delivery today and head out, in even fiercer heat, for an earlyish morning ride.

Imagine my horror then, when I’m overtaken by a DPD van within a couple of miles of home! The prospect of my poor basket arriving unwelcomed to an empty house and having to be taken back to an inhospitable van – plus the excuse of forgetting my bike pump, as well as the even fiercer heat – convinces me to turn round and head for home after 15 miles.

There is one heart stopping moment when I arrive and peer nervously into the dark abyss behind the front door and see something – a card, flyer, envelope? – lying on the doormat. I approach it with trepidation before relief engulfs my fragile psyche and I crumple the brightly coloured invitation from the Christadelphian God botherers round the corner.

So, Saturday afternoon and at least I can rest easy for the next 30 hours of so, before resuming my lonely vigil on Monday morning. But Monday at 10am has been earmarked for my long-awaited tennis coaching lesson – postponed repeatedly because of marking commitments, Wimbledon viewing and re-arranged from last week in order to recover from the stress of watching the final.

Will my basket by lucky enough to be in transit with one of the couriers who text in advance to advise of their delivery window?

Will any of my neighbours be in?

Can I risk nipping out for some milk?

Will it arrive before 9.45am, or after 11.30am?

Will I ever be able to receive my basket?

Well, in the event, it was no to the first four questions and yes to number five. After rushing back from the tennis, I have time for a rejuvenating flat white, before my old friend, the Parcelforce delivery driver, knocks at the door.

“You see, I always bring you sunshine, ma’m,” he says with a smile as I sign his handheld computer thing.

Waiting in for deliveries, with its inherent frustration, disappointment, exasperation just has to be the 21st century’s ultimate form of control freakery.

The final touch
The final touch

 

But sometimes, it’s all worth it.

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