In the very tiny hours of last Sunday morning, the clocks whizzed forward by one hour, which means we now have to get up one hour earlier than we used to, something my inboard clock has still not happily adjusted to. This change is something we should welcome, as it heralds Western European Summertime, with its promise of balmy days, glowing sunshine, erupting flowers, ripening tomatoes and the casting off of clouts.
Summertime, and the living is easy, fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high ……….
Summertime, so far, in south-western France, has been cold, wet and windy, and the living in an old, draughty, unheated, inadequately-insulated farmhouse is many things, but not easy. Yesterday the drive to Dieppe was characterised by grey skies of varying intensity from silvery-soft to dirty net curtain, rain of varying density from tickling drizzle to fist-sized splodges (interspersed with hail and something that looked like sheets of ice falling on the windscreen), and crosswinds shoving trucks and tankers around like dodgem cars.
The ferry rocked and rolled from side to side, so that the windows showed one moment a seascape, the next a skyscape, to the accompaniment of a chorus of breaking glass and crockery, and pitched from back to front causing small children to fall flat on their faces and elderly people to slip down the stairs. The winds reached 55 mph, and the fish would have had to leap 15 ft. into the air to clear the tops of the waves. Complexions ranged from pea-green to corpse grey, and the fascinating man sitting near us who wore a multitude of coloured bangles on each wrist, an extraordinary arrangement of grey side-whiskers forming handlebars to his ears, a very large, wide-brimmed purple felt hat and a garment that looked like a grey serape, distressed me by opening up a deep, waxed-paper container and looking into it as if he would at any moment fill it with his breakfast and lunch.
A shipwreck in stormy seas, by Claude-Joseph Vernet
To the ferry’s credit it arrived intact and dead on time in Newhaven, where the rain was being driven in horizontal sheets across the roads by screeching winds, and the temperature wasn’t very much above freezing. This morning London is bitterly cold with quite violent winds, and people are swaddled in woolly hats, scarves, padded coats and furry boots. Further north the roads are impassable due to heavy snowfalls, and tomorrow we can look forward to a frosty start.
Western European Summertime? Surely a misleading description, something Trading Standards should be investigating?