How a bottle of pink wine and a pair of blue suede shoes made my summer
Ihave been reviewing my blazing summer of 2018. It has, for a variety of reasons, been a season of joy. Firstly I, like the rest of the Cotswolds, have been hosing myself down with pink. Last year la toute Cotswolds was drinking Aix Rosé, which at 13% left most of them seeing pink. This summer the thirst quencher was Domaine La Colombette Grenache Rosé, which was not only much more delicious than Aix but also at 11½% not much more intoxicating than a raspberry ripple ice-lolly.
Secondly there is the pair of skimpy blue suede driving shoes with white stitching on the uppers that I bought in a telepathic moment on a cold April day in Cheltenham. The purchase led to much abuse from those who sport boating shoes with tractor-tyre soles who said the continental loafers were as befitting to the damp Cotswolds weather as a Rastafarian string vest. Who’s laughing now, eh?
Meanwhile a short-sleeved pineapple and palm tree Hawaiian shirt that I last wore in the summer of 76, and always thought would come in useful one day, made a brief re-appearance on July 23 (temperature 33.3C.) and, in memory of my late father, I sported a white knotted handkerchief on my head on a blisteringly hot August day on a beach in Cornwall.
And then there was my summer discovery that the receipt from the Cirencester drive-in Macdonald’s will, after filling in a questionnaire on the internet and jotting down a given code, when re-presented cut the price of a Big Mac meal by £2.11p. I have so far saved £14.77p, which by Christmas will, if I continue to patronise the Golden Arches, have multiplied to a sum large enough to take my partner and I for an hors d’oeuvre at Cheltenham’s Michelinstarred Le Champignon Sauvage.
These things have given me much pleasure over the last few months but perhaps what has given most delight has been the unnatural silence. The heat, bless it, has stopped the grass growing and so for the first year in living memory the mowers and strimmers have been hushed (if you work from home you notice these things). Personally I have never seen the point of a well-mown lawn or verge. The neat patches of green are a vanity, a waste of money, time and effort, unless one has small children. From early April until late September – at least in an ordinary British summer - the drone and whine of grass-cutting machines invades the quiet of the countryside to trim a square of earth into a damp green carpet whose only reason to exist is, as far as I can tell, to be mown. Then this year, the first in years that a lawn just possibly might come in useful for, for example, al fresco dining, the grass turned to brown scrub.
Anyway I had been enjoying the summer silence until this week when, believe it or not, a leaf blower was fired up. How could this happen? There were no leaves to blow yet. At first I assumed a zealous Percy Thrower was huffing and puffing at a forgotten leaf from last year, or maybe he was frustrated at not being able to use his strimmer this summer and so was keeping his arm in with an early swing of the blower. In fact it was my neighbour who was using his outdoor Hoover to marshal apples. The fruit had fallen from a tree, which had been roughly pruned because it was in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own fruit, and was now turning the road into an Ikea plastic ball pit. The Pippins are now in a pile, in a rotting bonfire opposite my house.
Just as the first cuckoo announces spring so the first jump start of the leaf blower signals autumn. Its high-pitched engine will, for the foreseeable future, mar the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Why can’t the leaves be allowed to stay on the grass? Why must they be cleared? Why not sweep or rake them into piles into which small children can jump?
I do not know the answer. All I’m sure of is that my apple-blowing neighbour has abruptly ended my summer of 2018. I have had my last glass of Rosé, my soft-soled shoes are back in the wardrobe and the knotted handkerchief is unknotted and in my pocket. It will probably mark the end of the Macdonald’s Big Mac deal too.
Why can’t the leaves be allowed to stay on the grass? Why not rake them into piles into which small children can jump?