New Column: Sun Dappled England


Well look what happened; we came back from Thailand and little old England was basking in what I call ‘Basically Summer’. It’s true, I do suffer from pre-summer over-excitement and indeed, it is in reality, spring. Which is equally – if not better – than summer in many ways.

The promise of the new. Deers skipping in meadows, newborn bunny rabbits frolicking and a united rejoice, because spring means new starts for everyone. Fern Britton is back on the box clutching a cup of tea, Will and Kate are getting hitched, the blossom is abundant and I feel an almost irresistible urge to get fit, become self-sufficient and wear pastel colours. All the signs are there.

In Sunday’s Observer newspaper, Rob Penn discusses our love for the spring, and how British spring is particularly special. Not just because our winter’s can be so horrendously bleak. He eloquently describes the pure joy of being outside again, with the lengthening of the days since the passing of the equinox and warmer temperatures.

“It’s a psychological crossroads: for the first time in the year, I feel I can be outside and content doing nothing. I walk the dogs because I want to, not because I have to. There is time to lean against a tree, look up and let the sun burn golden palaces on to my closed eyelids.”

And it’s true isn’t it? Everyone is so much happier and friendly in the sun. We all absolutely love it. That’s why Phil Spencer has a programme flaunting the advantages of living in Australia, focusing on the sunshine, as he puffs out his chest walking along an idyllic beach.

But in my eyes, winter makes spring all the more splendid. Eternal heat ain’t that grand. Admittedly, Charlie and I escaped the winter for a couple of weeks for sun therapy, but it’s not like the single-glazed basement we reside in hasn’t caused us to really grasp the winter full throttle. And oh it was lovely in the sun. I felt my shoulders relax fully, no longer tensed with the need to huddle and conserve heat. I love the sun. However, I would crave the winter if it didn’t exist.

The best time is when the warm-up starts. When the first day of spring begins – i.e. no coat required to insulate against biting cold, you can see everyone visibly relax. Bristol becomes magnificent, everyone appears approachable and the wood pigeon won’t put a sock in it. And why would he?
The first days of spring and thereafter are really appreciated by us Britons. Catch me with a cup of tea on a dewy morning and you’ll capture me at my most patriotic. Now is the time we should all savor, because it really is heavenly. I raise my tea cup to you: here’s to ‘Basically Summer’.

William Wordsworth writes:
Written in March
The cock is crowing
The stream is flowing
The small birds twitter
The lake doth glitter
The green field sleeps in the sun
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest
The cattle are grazing
Their heads never raising
There are forty feeding like one!
Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The plowboy is whooping- anon-anon:
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!


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