Slowly the world has slipped into September and autumn, in the process forgetting to bring summer to the UK. Despite the highest ever July temperature recorded this year on a day I was abroad – typical! – it’s been a horrible summer with the wettest and coldest August since goodness knows how long. As a consequence the garden hasn’t thrived this year. Many plants have succumbed to wind damage, my tall obelisk blown over at least four times due to the strong winds we’ve had, but thankfully the clematis clinging to it for dear life has survived and still flowering well. We’ve lost many plants: petunias dying early, fuchsias suffering with early leaf drop and other plants just not bothering to flower. The begonias in hanging baskets are suffering with mildew too, thanks to the damp weather. This has been disheartening for both Dave and me but there’s not a lot we can do about the weather. We can control the weeds, but not the sun.
So now begins the process of putting the garden to bed, putting in cyclamen and pansies for autumn and winter displays, and planting bulbs for next autumn. That said, autumn is a time when a lot of flowers come into their own and our dahlias and chrysanthemums are putting on a fine display, bringing a late splash of colour and a feast for the bees. Looking around this morning every plant had bees on it, some having one on every flower, the air full of buzzing!
There haven’t been many days I’ve been able to sit outside and enjoy my coffee or read a book. The sunshade has only been put up twice all summer – last year it was in use every day. Also missing this year are the butterflies. We’ve had one or two visit the garden, but nothing like the spectacular numbers of recent years. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. One evening last month, I was invited by my daughter Katie to an open-air theatre production of Treasure Island. I’ve seen many plays put on by this amateur dramatic troupe – the Sodbury Players – they’re very professional, so I knew I would be in for a good evening.
“Bring a picnic, a chair, a warm jacket and a brolly,” she said, “it always rains when we perform outside.” The brolly and jacket were not needed. For once this year the evening was glorious. It was warm, although a chilly breeze did get up come dusk. The venue was in the beautiful gardens of an Elizabethan farmhouse, Camers, perched on an escarpment of the Cotswold hills, which affords magnificent views over the countryside across to the city of Bristol in the distance.
I nearly turned the car around on route as of all evenings, this turned out to be flying ant day, and I simply hate flying ants. The air was amass with them but by the time I’d collected the grandchildren, and we’d parked the car in the field below the house, the ants had either found new homes or filled the bellies of the many swifts and other birds feasting on them.
After being entertained by a violinist as we enjoyed our picnics, the play began. Katie’s part was “an angry pirate”. She was brilliant, as were all the actors. One of the things this troupe does well is ad-lib and improvisation when things don’t quite go to plan. They always make it look as if it was meant to happen, this night being no exception. Being Treasure Island, one of the props used was rifles, firing blanks for sound effect. Except one didn’t work. Three times Long John Silver aimed his rifle, three times nothing happened. “Damn,” he said, “all the rain’s made got my gunpowder wet.” (Laughter from the audience.) He raised it again, and in a loud voice shouted, “BANG!” causing much hilarity in the audience and for the cast.
The performance was good, highly entertaining, and it was lovely to be able to spend an evening in the company of my two grandchildren, whom I don’t see a lot of now they are young adults. I do hope they invite me to next year’s performance.
And hopefully next summer will be better all round.