The last weeks of August sizzle. Furnace days that pass like treacle. Hottest days on record, air so close it’s hard to breathe. Air so hot it’s impossible to get relief. Sleepless nights. Sticky, long days of hard brilliance. August is stuck in amber: it seems it will never end.
But finally the amber cracks. On the morning of the storm the world is damp with dew and the sun is a blazing orange balloon. We know the storm is coming, but it isn’t until the hour before midnight that it appears. Two booms of thunder and a neon flash herald its arrival. The next crash envelops the house, as though giving birth to it. Lightning flares every few seconds. Thunder grumbles. Rain hammers down.
In the morning the landscape is scoured clean. Green is greener, more vivid after rain. There is energy in the air. In the deluge, autumn’s blooms have blossomed: a bouquet of fungi along the paths. It has been a good summer for fungi, despite the heat. There has been a bountiful harvest of field mushrooms in the park and a scattering of fairy rings.
A day after the storm, it is cool enough to walk the wagonway. The hedgerows bulge with fruits. Birds nests of wild carrot, fat with lilac seeds. Horse chestnuts ripe with conkers, still encased in green. Bushes full of blackberries. The wind teases willowherb seeds from their stalks so that I walk through drifts of down. I hear the steam train chug and whistle down the nearby museum track.
The flowers are few now: a clump of willowherbs here, ragworts there, clusters of fleabane and sow thistles. Insects jostle for space on those blooms that remain: hoverflies, bees and flies, speckled wood butterflies. Dragonflies dart across the path moving between ponds and patches of damp ground. There is still little evidence of birds: a couple of wood pigeons, the song of a robin and the twittering of a few hidden blue tits.
In the dene, it already seems like autumn. The avenue of lindens has released a drift of tawny flower casings that look like heaps of autumn leaves. August is finally over and the scent of a new season is in the air.
I was introduced to the wonderful book Saxon’s Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion some time ago and I was thrilled to see he was crowdfunding to publish his next novel Draca through Unbound. The book is about a former Royal Marine haunted by his past and possibly by the old boat left to him by his grandfather. Half of the profits will go to the veteran’s charity Combat Stress. Geoff has been offered a great opportunity to promote the book at a festival alongside a ‘household TV name’ if it is published in time. Pledges are currently at 89% but he only has two weeks to reach 100% if he is to get the opportunity. That’s only 60 books, so please consider pledging to enjoy what I expect will be a great read and to help out combat veterans too! You can find out more here.