On Monday this week the weather forecasters seemed fixated on the fact that it was the start of something they called ‘meteorological summer’. If you live in the UK & looked out of the window at that point, there was only one sane reaction to such news:
Because frankly, even by British standards, the weather’s been a total washout. (btw, this week’s GIFs are dedicated to fellow book blogger Lady Fancifull :-) ) However, it has brightened up considerably throughout the week and as I write this I can smell my neighbour’s barbeque, so it looks like maybe the weather forecasters’ optimism wasn’t so misplaced after all. I like to imagine the meteorologists are now running round the studio thusly:
So here is a post to celebrate the start of the meteorological summer. Which in the UK should be good for at least, ooh, another 5 days or so ;-)
Firstly, The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (1972, my edition 2003 Sort Of books trans.Thomas Teal) which I won from a giveaway hosted by the lovely bookarino at Dawn of Books. Apparently this was Jansson’s favourite of her novels for adults (she is best known for the Moomin series) and it’s a wonderful read. The premise is simple: a series of vignettes detailing how a grandmother and her granddaughter Sophia spend a summer together on an island in the gulf of Finland.
“When the southwest wind was blowing, the days seemed to follow one another without any kind of change or occurrence; day and night, there was the same even, peaceful rush of wind.. ..They all moved about the island doing their own chores, which were so natural and obvious that no one mentioned them, neither for praise nor sympathy. It was just the same long summer, always, and everything lived and grew at its own pace.”
Nothing hugely dramatic happens, but Jansson evokes real meaning through the layering of small moments to create fully realised portraits of two complex, stubborn, loving, life-embracing women.
““Listen,” Sophia said. “I don’t have time to stay here with you – I’ve only been swimming twice today. You won’t be sad now, will you?”
“I want to go too,” Grandmother said.
…They helped each other climb out of the canyon, and then they circled around the hill…off to one side of the channel marker, there was a large, deep pool.
“Is this alright?” Sophia sked.
“It’s fine,” Grandmother said. She bared her legs and stuck them in the pool. The water was warm and pleasant.”
There is a wonderful gentle humour running through the book, and also sadness – Sophia’s mother has died, the elderly grandmother is aware her time is short.
““What are you doing?” asked little Sophia.
“Nothing,” her grandmother answered. “That is to say,” she added angrily, “I’m looking for my false teeth.”
The child came down from the veranda. “Where did you lose them?” she asked.
“Here,” said her grandmother. “I was standing right there and they fell somewhere in the peonies.” They looked together.
“Let me,” Sophia said. “You can hardly walk, Move over.””
Bookarino’s enthusiasm for Jansson is infectious, as is Kaggsy’s, and I definitely plan on reading all her books for adults (and maybe a Moomin or two too…)
If, like me, you live in a city, summer may not immediately bring to mind the heady waft of night blooming jasmine and the soothing chirp of crickets. So I’m eschewing pastoral evocations of summer in favour of a short poem about London in summer, ‘August’ by Tobias Hill (from Nocturne in Chrome and Sunset Yellow, 2007):
when pigeons like dei ex machina
descend improbably out of the air
wobble like airships skimming through the tops
of trees which sink under their tea-pink weights
until each grandee bungee-jumps or bellyflops
downwards in great soap-operatic terrifying swoops
into the sweet dark shining feather-bedness of the fruits
When the first sunny days appear, those of us used to greyer climes seem to behave with the mania of the pigeons in this poem. It’s a glorious sight to behold, as city-dwellers sunbathe on patchy grass verges next to dual carriageways, pale blue skin gradually glowing vermilion; lager and sausage rolls sweating in plastic carrier bags beside them. Ah, the summer idyll….
I got my hair cut today (moulting in the warm weather) and the titular song from this post started to play on the radio. My hairdresser pronounced it a classic but said her favourite summer song was this: