Monday 4th July 2011
JULY deserves a better press. It has no official holidays and the only religious feast of note makes fun of a former bishop of Winchester: St Swithun. Americans celebrate something early on and then ignore the rest of it. Perhaps it suffers from ‘middle child syndrome’, sitting unnoticed between the flames of June and the summer holidays.
But it’s out there right now. Go see for yourself.
A man drives down the High Street on an old tractor: flat cap, no seat belt. It’s eight o’clock, already warm. Early birds sing the hedgerows. Have they repainted the Market House or is it the sunlight giving it that sheen?
There have been but two royal family weddings in July since 1893: Charles and Diana; Andrew and Sarah. They chose August and May respectively for their 1996 divorces.
The coach is on time. It’s a rather dashing pink. Maybe I’ll catch up on sleep, having sat outside till late, drinking and talking with friends.
Le Tour de France has started. In 1925 the threat of a strike put paid to the manager’s plan that all the riders should eat exactly the same amount of food each day.
Something in the passing scenery, however, keeps me awake. Nothing out of the ordinary, just foliage and field, the graze of herd, a corkscrew of smoke, the flutter of redneck poppies. There’s a certain certainty to the landscape: these corners are forever England.
Coleridge’s daughter Sara’s children’s verse, The Months, observes that:
Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.
But most people are more familiar with the Flanders and Swann parody:
In July the sun is hot
Is it shining? No, it’s not!
On alighting in Cirencester, I walk home through the park, to the sound of church bells. When I stop by the edge of the lake to admire a pair of tiny ducklings, some birds swim away, others approach, as if expecting bread. A woman sits on a bench, reading. She has a hamper alongside her, suggesting a long day ahead.
Scattergram swifts tease the way to my front door.
I put the kettle on.