Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Summertime / Ella Fitzgerald
This time of year the plots couldn’t look more different from January when you can sit and look across plots from one side to the other. Now the plots are alive with growing and the paths become narrower as leaves, flowers, fruits and vegetables tumble across them, strawberries reaching out as far as they can.
For somewhere that I regard as peaceful and tranquil when I sit quietly and note the sounds that I can actually hear I’m astonished how many different identifiable noises there are than hover on the outside perimeter sometimes creating over the borders into the allotments.
It’s easy to forget how just beyond the border or greenery there are homes and the life of a city happening.
Sometimes I take a little while out of my visit to wander around the plots that I have access to, it’s so fascinating to see what people choose to grow and how individual the plots are.
Some plots are ordered with grass and flowerbeds as well as food growing areas.
Some have vegetables with a few flowers and narrow paths so every part of the plot is used to harvest.
Others have a more free range feel to them where plants roam and paths across the plots are a little more difficult to identify.
At this time of year my favourite smell is the sweet unmistakable scent of raspberries ripening under the sky. My absolutely favourite fruit with memories of picking them aged about 7 in a bikini with a small wicker basket, the leather strap tied around my waist.
It’s very hard to sit and draw them with the sun baking down ripening them to perfect juiciness right in front of me, and not picking them.
I still believe that fruit particularly raspberries picked straight from the sun drenched cane and eaten straight away are the sweetest most delectable flavour there is. I can be happily bribed to do most things if you hold out a punnet of newly plucked raspberries under my nose!
The bees are having a very lovely time at the moment with the abundance of flowers and nectar. Certain plants are covered with the sound of buzzing, at one point the buzz is so loud I wonder if there’s a swarm nearby, no, it’s just the number of bees on the flowers next to me.
It would be hard not to be enchanted by these amazing insects, yes they do sting if you annoy them, that’s your lookout! When you slow down their busyness and watch how they move around the delicate centre of a flower it becomes even more hypnotic.
With the abundant rain this month, albeit in dumped from the sky without elegance, and the glorious days of sunshine in between, the flowers are definitely putting on a good show.
The tendrils of plants, particularly clematis, as they reach out to hold and attach themselves to something solid and how they intertwine with the stems of other plants, reminds me of the 1962 film of John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids which terrified me (but I also loved) as a child. I remember it as a black and white film but perhaps it only looks black and white when viewed through the fingers of small hands.
I finish the month with two full uninterrupted days at the plots. One of them typically on the hottest day of June (this year?… this decade?)
My list of things to take is somewhat different from the winter list:
Fan (colourful flamenco fan given to me by a friend returning from Spain)
Linen sun hat (recently purchased from Cambridge market and just in time)
Parasol (I knew it would come in useful one day)
Sun factor 15, 30 and 50 (there are some bits of me that I don’t want to get to the sun!)
I really like the way these fruit have been trained on stakes so that they are at an easy height to pick. The blackberries are coming along on many of the plots, their delicate flowers and the young berries beginning to form.
Bees and wasps are going mad for these little plants and I have to wait a few times for a bee to land on the flower and collect its nectar before I can carry on drawing.
As I settle down to draw the blackberry flowers there’s an over ripe strawberry at my feet which has rolled away from it’s plant and is now turning. The scent of this small fruit fills my nose with memories of happy childhood summer days.
As people come home from work on a Friday the water tumbling from hoses starts to flow the droplets twinkle in the sun’s light. Earlier the smell of cut grass (the signature of summer) accompanied me while I drew, now it’s the scent of hot earth drinking in the water.
It’s 7:20pm and although the day’s fierce sun lingers and the smell of barbecues floats over on the breeze, I’m not sure where from, possibly not on the allotments, it’s now possible to sit and enjoy the evening heat.
I know I’m drawing slowly today, even slower than usual. I find my mind wondering as I examine every leaf in detail.
As I sit to write my journal at the end of the day I spot a drip of blood on my ankle, something has bitten me. I immediately put savlon on the bite and hope that I won’t get a reaction which often happens. At this point I realise I have completely forgotten to put on insect repellent.
The next day it’s sweltering and I imagine that the plots will be empty during the middle of the day, but once again I’m mistaken. There are people around me watering, digging and someone’s athletically mending a shed roof. With temperatures ready to soar into the mid 30s (yet feeling as though they’re in the high 30s) I’m impressed that anyone is starting any kind of physical project, I’m in awe.
Within half an hour of arriving the heat is stifling and intense, I have been forced to find some shade and as I take a walk around and spot a plot I haven’t drawn on yet, but which I have permission. There’s a pergola in front of the shed with a vine casting shade.
The shed’s shade is invaluable and there is a breeze that keeps my little meter square of shade even cooler. I stay there for most of the afternoon not wanting to move from my oasis.
Heading back into the heat at 7:30pm I sit on a rug and write my journal, still against the backdrop of a blue sky and still sheltering under my parasol.