When I lived in Saigon, where I never once needed to ask myself the question: ‘will I need a cardi?’ when I left the front door, it was difficult to remember why I or other British people got excited about English summer weather. We spend so much of the year in the dark, trapped inside by rain or cold, moaning about how grim everything is. And even on the best of days, you’d be a fool to leave the house without emergency layers.
But yesterday was one of those days, weather wise, that restored my faith in the seasons of England. I can’t deny I loved the constant warmth and humidity of Vietnam, but there’s another kind of loveliness to weather that makes you wait, and the palpable glee in the air that it’s finally here, the warm weather and long evenings are here at last.
I’m lucky to live right next to Attenborough Nature Reserve, and so yesterday I went there (twice) to enjoy the good weather. So did a whole host of other runners, cyclists, families and bird watchers, not to mention the countless birds they were watching.
I decided to write a poem today which attempts to recreate the atmosphere of yesterday, because I find nature poetry difficult but often love to read it. Also, because it’s not often we get a day that feels like that – the communal joy of summer weather – and I wanted to find a way to make it last.
Cruel Winter, Cruel Summer
It arrives unannounced, one evening in April.
One day ago we’d sworn we were leaving for good.
Now we wonder why we lamented the endless winter:
nothing could make us turn our backs on this.
The first kiss of summer. We first walk then run
along the canal path dovetailed with the river Trent.
We aren’t alone. For once, the geese and swans
leave the fishermen to enjoy the golden hour bliss.
The daffodils hold buttercups to their smiling chins
at the Marina. Chromatic tulips queue for ice creams.
Olympic midges weave and dive in pub garden air
barbecue thick with play park shrieking and amber ale.
We press on along the gravel path, latticed with butter light,
past the pale, patient moon; the defiant, blazing sun.
Plovers and oyster catchers wade in evening baths.
We pass a heron, shadow still. A cobalt kingfisher flash.
T shirt runners and cyclists are out of hibernation
and the sand martins pilgrimage is over at last.
We pause at a kissing gate to breathe a sigh of relief.
The cruel winter is over. For now, summer’s back.