Memories of an English Summer

When I was a young girl, and yes, it was a good few years ago, I am convinced that the summers were longer and hotter and it snowed every winter (unlike Hollywood, not usually, and magically, on Christmas Eve).  However,  I do have memories of many Boxing Days and New Year’s Eves with silent snowfall reflected in the golden lamplight, viewed from My grandmother’s living room window.  Having a late December birthday, I can also remember my father trying to drive an excited bunch of school girls through swirling snow for supper and the theatre (a pantomime, of course) at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre.

Memories of the big freeze 1962/63 as a child, being taken sledging (very gently) by my mother in a winter wonderland with blue blue skies and bright sunshine – not a slushy puddle in sight.  Equally, I remember eating endless ice-creams, with my colleagues, sweltering in a non air-conditioned office in 1976 in Dover.  The sea breezes seemingly doing little to bring any relief from the heavy humidity of the room.

So when did it all change ? Or do the passing years dim the memory and nostalgia gives us rose-tinted spectacles ?  Well, I certainly know that there have been a few mild, grey, damp winters which seem to merge into mild, grey damp summers but the summer of 2016, from the point of view of sunshine, has restored my faith in the perfect English summertime.

When H E Bates wrote ‘The Darling Buds of May’ first published in 1958, he wrote of an idyllic life deep in the Kentish countryside which Pa Larkin, the central character, deemed to be ‘Perfick’, and perfect it was, the smell of roses and lavender, with the buzzing of the bees, the bird song, the crickets, and the call of the rooster (not just at dawn but throughout the day) – As September arrives and the hop harvest is beginning and the Victoria plums are in the farm shops and the corn on the cobs are being gathered in – if I close my eyes to any satellite discs or parked vehicles and wait for the calm of the evening when the traffic has quietened, it could be 50 years ago – just for a little while !

Since the beginning of July and throughout August, we have had delightful, warm, sunny weather, here in the south-east of England, and I have been lucky enough to work in some of the most beautiful places. enjoying coast and countryside and mellow towns, villages and even cities. What a privilege and a pleasure to be a professional Tourist Guide and Tour Manager in this beautiful country I call home.  Early mornings at Dover Cruise Terminal where the sky and sea have been azure blue, and the iconic White Cliffs of Dover have stood out sharp and clear on the skyline with the majestic Dover Castle standing guard over the harbour and the town.  To live amongst the orchards, hop gardens and scenic villages around Sandwich and Canterbury and watch the still-present rhythm of the agricultural year dictate the life of those whose livelihood depends on the weather and the behaviour of the changing seasons.

As the frothy white hedgerows of June gave way to the lush green fields and meadows of July, what a joy it was to explore the North and the South Downs to travel with guests from the United States and Canada from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Kent down into East Sussex and the idyllic ‘Antient Towns’ of Rye and Winchelsea, to explore Royal Tunbridge Wells, and re-capture ‘Foyle’s War’ and 1940’s Britain in Hastings Old Town.

The warmth enabled us to enjoy our clean beaches and our (surprisingly) warm sea, and what a pleasure to see children with bucket and spade doing just what we did 50 years ago!

As August began, I was once more privileged to work with guests from Ohio on a wonderful tour which took us up into the beautiful Cotswolds. Days in the warmth, admiring the honey coloured stone and soaking up the views whilst discovering the amazing history of this beautiful region. Still very evident from the sheep we saw, we can see and understand why the ‘Cotswolds Lions’ were so important to England at the height of the Wool Trade back in medieval times.  English Civil War stories and battlefields added anecdote to the visual delights and the opportunity to sit and watch the world go by enjoying arts and crafts (and ice-creams) will remain with us all for a long time.

Plenty more to recall about this wondrous summer, but back to the present for the moment, and nostalgia aside, how wonderful we still have all this, but we can come home to our labour-saving devices, and many other aspects of technology which were not there in those far-off days. On that note, time to open the freezer, aim for a little defrosting in the microwave, and fire up the oven for an up to date dinner. Did I hear you say ‘dishwasher’ ? – well, he is due home from work any minute……

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