Midsummer madness, a week in flowers mostly – first published 20 June 2014

Sunrise over Stonehenge from Wikimedia Commons – by http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/

The summer solstice 2014. As ever, the Druids were at Stonehenge watching the sun rise. In fact there were somewhere in the region of 37,000 people gathered to welcome the longest day of the year. Yes, we still have the odd Druid here in England. Maybe one of these days I will wander up the road to Salisbury to have a look myself, although I think I’d refer it without so many people.

20 June 2014

Although it was the summer solstice today, for me it was just another Saturday at work. Maybe the ancient festival or the solar event had done something to people’s brains but it seemed to be a day of lost property. Almost every call I took was someone desperate to find something they’d left on a bus somewhere. The were phones, purses, wallets, bus passes, bags, even a pair of glasses in a case. It never ceases to amaze me what people lose and, more to the point, how angry they get with everyone else about it. Let’s face it, if you are stupid enough to leave your brand new iPhone on a seat on a bus, you’re going to consider yourself very lucky indeed if you ever see it again.

In yet another example of mid summer madness, there was also a bus emergency, or a least a police woman calling to find out about one. Apparently, one of our buses was driving around the streets of Wiltshire with an emergency alarm going off along with an announcement saying “This bus is under attack, please call 999.” After a great deal of calling round on my part it turned out to be a false alarm, which was good to know. At least it made a change from yet another lost phone.

Lost property and bus alarms aside, for me, mid summer is really about the flowers and this week my walks to and from work have been positively floral. Even before I get out of the gate there are beautiful day lilies to draw my eye. Each bloom lasts just one day, hence the name, but each plant has a succession, brining a touch of the exotic to the garden for a few weeks. The hebe is also putting on a good show.

The blackberries have been flowering on and off since early spring but this week they seem to have gone into overdrive. Everywhere I go I see delicate white flowers tinged with varying degrees of pink peeping out from every corner. Later I will have to take a carrier bag with me on my walks to collect the juicy berries. Having said that, there are lots of little black beetles on many of them this year, I’m not sure what they are but I guess the mild winter is to blame.

The beetles seem to have infested other nearby flowers too. On the river walk I saw them on the bindweed flowers and in a garden close to Monks Walk I saw one hiding in the centre of a jasmine flower. Both places are also full of blackberries so maybe the beetles are just lost. Still, I think I’ll give my garden the once over tomorrow just in case.

The pale colours of spring are still around with delicate hydrangeas in pink and palest purple. I love the understated beauty of these pastels but now they’ve been joined by the deep purple of buddleia arching gracefully over every piece of wasteland in the city. The hot colours of summer are on the way now.

Lavatera bridges the gap between pastel and bright, ranging from white to shocking pink. My favourites though are the candy pink. The fiery hollyhocks are going strong and I may try to capture some seed if I get the chance. I love their showiness and the delicate patterns in the centre. Bottlebrush flowers have opened too, an explosion of red. The spiny looking spikes are actually soft stamens emerging from insignificant flowers you hardly notice.

Yesterday, on my way up the Big Hill, the shrubs had burst into bloom. It was like walking through a rose bower with cistus competing to outdo a mass of pink and white roses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many. The smell, of course, was delightful.

If spring is all about pastel blue, purple, yellow and white, summer is all about the smell for me. The scent of roses, some spicy, some sweet, waft across the paths I walk. Jasmine, so heavenly I have to stop and drink it in, is just beginning to open and the first honeysuckle, sickly sweet, is twining through the trees.

On the way home at seven, crepuscular rays greeted me as I walked out of the office. The sun was getting lower in the sky and the tide was high along the Boardwalk. The little rowing boat near Suki II was floating for a change. Usually it’s sitting on the shingle. On the embankment a furry caterpillar crawled along the old stone wall and I relished the cooling breeze blowing across the water.

The days are hot, the nights sticky and winter seems a long way off.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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