Usually there are plenty of opportunities to pick an overcast day if we’re planning to visit a garden or, if not, at least chances to wait for a cloud. But this year is different. Unrelenting sunshine is not usually a big issue in northern England but Texan-style blue skies (with not a cloud in sight all day long) are all the rage.
In my last few garden visits, I’ve been in the unusual position of having to battle with the sun to get a decent picture. The score so far? Something like Sun 96, Susan 4. Undeterred, I’m sharing the four (top to bottom: Herb Robert; Jovibarba heuffelii; epimedium leaves; roses) while listing a few woes. An attack of sunshine clearly brings out the worst in me – if you don’t want to hear me grumble, avert your eyes from the words and look at the pictures.
I won’t go into our (lack of) air conditioning, other than to mention that’s why we start to get warnings of killer heatwaves when temperatures outside reach 85F / 29C. A small, flimsy plastic fan offers some respite, but my car’s air-conditioning has given up the ghost, despite being recently recharged.
We tend to associate sunshine with happy days, but our moorland is on fire in parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the scent (or stench, depending how close you are) of smouldering peat has spread for miles around. The wildlife has so far taken the brunt of the fallout, although some people have had to move out of their homes as a precaution and I dread to think what conditions must be like for the soldiers and firefighters battling for control.
English people are already in an overexcited, anxious state because of the World Cup – a good proportion of us are waiting to see how our team will perform while another good proportion who don’t like football are het up because all our soaps have been rescheduled.
When the World Cup is on, you may be very surprised to learn that more beer is consumed in the UK. No? And not just us? All the more strange, then, that some of Europe’s carbon dioxide suppliers thought this might be a good time to do a hefty chunk of routine maintenance, all at the same time. Supplies of staples like bread, chicken, pork and beer are threatened just as everyone is wondering whether a British person can say ‘Let’s get the barbie out’ with any degree of credibility. But it’s OK, the BBC and other news channels are saying that we aren’t facing shortages, just less choice. I spy some marketeer’s subtlety behind that statement.
It all sounds like a plot to me. Sap the spirit of the English when it gets hot, just when they’ve taken their eye off the ball… er, make that when they’ve got their eye on the ball. I suppose ice lolly shortages will be next.
At this point, I’m reminded to share one of my latest games, invented to help make long road trips more tolerable. This one legitimises brief bursts of cathartic grumbling. It doesn’t sound convincing, but try it. Occupants of the vehicle have to take it in turns to grumble for 30 seconds without stopping or being interrupted. The game commences when it appears someone is going to start grumbling anyway. Might as well make a game of it.
My sweetheart and I play merely for the accolade of being best grumbler, but feel free to adjust the rules and prizes. For example, the grumbling time period could be extended to challenge an exceptionally skilful carload of grumblers and you could permit more than one cycle of grumbling per hour, which we do not. Start off with 30 seconds though. You’ll usually find it surprisingly hard to grumble for a full 30 seconds without stopping when forced to do so.
Having done my good deed for mankind by helping make long car journeys more fun, I’ll sign off with this tumble of roses shot for those who prefer flowers to leaves.
None of my ‘winning’ shots are perfect, but together they give me some hope that I can learn to get along with the sun… if I have to… I guess.