Tuesday, August 17, 2021


It wasn't long ago that I could cartwheel across a lawn and did at every opportunity. I haven't tried lately. This was at Kew a few years ago, with my best friend, and the weather was meh. Shouldn't there be time for cartwheels?

I was reminded of the time I thought I'd write a picnic book. It was in the perma-summer of Los Angeles, when you wake up to sun streaming into the bedroom, and you remind yourself to get up and out quickly before it gets too hot to do so. The girls and I would walk up Laurel Pass before the runners and the actors were awake, before the pavement started to bake, when there was still cold in the shadows. The paths at the top of Mulholland were like the sea, dappled pools of warm and cold. And there, among the dark, cold ancient oaks one would think about English picnics with wicker baskets and silver boxes stuffed with ham sandwiches and green apples and flapjacks. That image must have come from a book because our picnics weren't like that. My mother would bring mountains of Coronation Chicken, created in the Norwegian manner, with great palm-sized mounds of chicken breast bathed in an unctious, silky mayonnaise, served with cold curried rice studded with crunchy bits of cauliflower and red pepper and yolk-yellow corn. She'd wheel it out at school speech days and Royal Ascot. Who doesn't love a picnic, I would ask myself. I even reserved the url...lashingsofgingerbeer.

Stuck in the cold, November-like August of West Berkshire, with ominous grey-mauve clouds and the need of a fleece or equivalent, I'm re-thinking my picniclust. I only want to wear short-sleeved cotton dresses and do cartwheels across the lawn, when in reality, I'm in thick socks and gumboots and scarves, and I've just taken stock of a couple of new duvets with a higher TOG count (who knew?).

MissWhistle in Fall2021

"Let's go to the beach" I say to McD. "Let's take the dogs and go early to the coast and walk and paddle and eat a huge breakfast!" I sound suitably Blyton. "But the weather is grim..." he says, always pragmatic, his brow pushing down further towards his eyes.

I'm dreaming of picnics and cotton dresses and bare, brown legs and cartwheels. Summer hasn't been long enough, or summery enough, or childlike enough.  It hasn't been sunny enough or blue enough or carefree enough. It's been filled with bad news, sad things, the collapse of nations, Covid rules, anxiety.  Interspersed with small pinpricks of happiness.  And I'm one of the lucky ones.

But here's a radical concept: Perhaps we should behave as if the sun is shining. Fuckin' fake it till you make it, man.

There are dahlias in the garden now, fistfuls of them, and we have six hens and bushels of raspberries. There is too much garden and we can't keep on top of it. There are tumbling hollyhocks and great walls of roses, cascading tomatoes and wild morning glory and cucumber vine which I rip off bushes as I pass. There is ivy growing on the wall and we snip wildly at the bottoms of it in an attempt to kill it before it affects the integrity of the bricks. Everything is green because of the amount of rain. Radishes are seeding and squirrels and field mice are nibbling on the root bulbs as they crown through the earth. The strawberries and gooseberries have resident rodents, who've become somewhat blasé. To Thistle, the Frenchie, every small furry creature is a squirrel, and despite her intent desire and laser focus, she has never caught one. Useful.  I'm thinking of creative ways to manage the garden. Aren't there landscaping students who would love to work in a walled garden? With free cups of tea? And ad hoc picnics sur l'herbe?


LPC said...

Some other British friends of mine confirm what you are saying-the summer hasn't really summered there this year. So sorry. My Trinidadian friend who lives near Bath does as you do, take comfort in the bright colors of her garden. Here we burn. Maybe the cartwheels, unspun, can be gears to change somehow. Ah, I'm projecting. Time to decarbonise my life as best I can. I hope the sun breaks through before August is done.

Miss Whistle said...

Thank you LPC. I think I'd like to meet your Trinidadian friend near Bath. I hope NoCal is as good as can be. I know you're having the opposite problem. Much love xo

cheri said...

Summer has been elusive on the Central Coast of CA as well, all while the rest of our beautiful state is on fire. The world is changing so quickly, it's hard to keep up with the inferno. Wishing you a warm end to your summer and happy times to be/

Anonymous said...

I am delighted to read your musings again. Even “real” summers seem to end too quickly, and I think the pandemic makes the thought of colder weather loom bleaker than in most years. I tell myself that it is all good weather, and go outside in most anything.

tedsmum said...

Thermals and twin sets and wellies but you already know that. The wwalled garden sounds amazing, I've always coveted one...x