Make hay while the sun shines

Sweet are the hazy af­ter­noons by vil­lage cricket grounds, bees hum­ming, scones for tea, mown grass and the clear, cold, me­an­der­ing river beck­on­ing for a swim

Country Life Every Week - - The Four Seasons -

‘A snap­dragon bends un­der the weight of a fat bum­ble­bee

High sum­mer and the air is heavy with heat. Un­der the green­shade of the oak, cows stand whisk­ing their tails. Sheep, glad now to have been shorn of their heavy fleeces last week, lie in the shadow pool of the hedge.

Along the shim­mer­ing flower bor­der of Miss Jones’s cot­tage, a pea­cock but­ter­fly flitty-floats; sunny days in Bri­tain are but­ter­fly days. A snap­dragon bends un­der the weight of a fat bum­ble­bee, which then drones away to a fox­glove. The lawn­mower buzzes up and down.

Al­though there isn’t a cloud in the blue, blue sky, the farmer looks anx­iously at the hori­zon. The hay­field needs to be cut and needs three fine days on the trot for the job. A breeze shim­mies through the wheat­field. The wheat, ori­ent and golden, can wait a month.

in a steel-and-glass of­fice block in Lon­don, the news­pa­per editor is also study­ing the sky. Will to­mor­row’s leader be ‘Phew! What a scorcher!’ or the other sum­mer stan­dard, ‘Washout!’? The damned weather fore­cast­ers are send­ing ‘mixed mes­sages’, to put it po­litely.

in the sti­fling square be­low, an el­derly gen­tle­man, 96 now but still pos­sessed of the alert­ness that saved his life more than once, is pushed along in a wheel­chair. he, too, gazes heav­en­wards. it was a per­fect day like this, in the Spit­fire sum­mer of 1940, that he flew his first mission. he came back to Tang­mere. Johnny didn’t and The Few were fewer still.

Young of­fice work­ers sit eat­ing their lunch, faces to the sun, like pale blooms. Oth­ers dan­gle their feet in the cool­ing foun­tain. Well, we do like to be in or be­side wa­ter. We are the is­land race. The Thames at hen­ley still echoes with the slap of oars from the Royal Re­gatta, and, in a fort­night, it will be blaz­ers and sails at Cowes. Some­where on a river in Der­byshire, be­low the beards of weeds and the dense wil­low pat­tern on the wa­ter from over­hang­ing trees, a fam­ily goes ‘wild swim­ming’ or, in old money, swim­ming. On the beach at Tenby, a dreamy girl has made a sand­cas­tle and waits in the pearled haze for the tide to turn and fill the moat.

From the county cricket ground, there is the steady thump of the ball be­ing hit for six; a good in­nings for the home side at last. At polo clubs, play­ers and ponies, sleek with sweat, start the last chukka of the day.

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