Thunder, lightning, blazing sunshine, rain and haar. Summer is racing by with extraordinary weather. The east of Scotland has seen scenes on beaches unknown since the Fair Fortnights of the fifties. One downside has been the intermittent closure of local restaurants with staff having to self-isolate due to Covid. July is gone, in just days apparently, and it’s suddenly August, with that back to school feeling which persists, decades beyond leaving education behind.
We’ve had family and friends to stay almost every week. Rather strange after having hardly anyone in the house for almost two years. Cannyrob has been cleaning, shopping and cooking. I’ve been buying bedlinen, making up beds and processing lots of laundry. We’ve extended the kitchen table, moved it in front of the french windows and dug out our Provencal tablecloth, yellow, with a print of black olives on green branches. Meals have felt distinctly summery in the balmy evening air. It has been wonderful to spend hours sitting around talking after months of limited contact.
This month's Tarot card is my all-time favourite! The Magician. No 1 in the Major Arcana, this figure begins the cycle of creation (again!). The workbench and the wand show he is ready to begin. Much more an artisan than a conjuror, he is both creator and trickster. Relevant to now? Perhaps we are ready to begin a new phase, to acknowledge different strengths discovered in lockdown, new priorities. I have cleared my work table in the Wash House, ready to start some new projects.
The garden is a continuing pleasure. Our new roses, Iceberg, Ancient Mariner and Lady of Shalott have produced blooms in white, pale pink and apricot with lovely fragrances. The sweet peas, planted late this year are flowering at last. We’ve been using our salad leaves and herbs from the greenhouse and little yellow flowers promise tomatoes before too long. We decided to buy a new strimmer and did some research, finding a good deal from John Lewis. It arrived two days later, with a label addressed to me pasted over an adhesive envelope bearing the details of a woman in Perth. The box had been opened and taped up again. Inside were the strimmer parts and instructions with complicated diagrams. Maybe she returned it because she couldn’t assemble it. Or, alternatively, it was faulty. Two calls to JL customer services and a promise to contact Karcher provided no more information. Cannyrob went ahead, assembled and used the strimmer. It works fine.
We’ve had some good days out. My friend M suggested a walk with C and A along the Lade Braes. It a very hot day and the shade of the trees along by the water was more than welcome. I sat and did some sketching while the others went on to the duck pond. Lunch in Janettas provided a well deserved rest.
Cannyrob and I took WeeBoy back to Cairnie Fruit Farm, where we had been when he was two, then four. At seven he had fun on the trampolines, go-karts and straw bales. We set off into the maze (made of maize plants!) I gave up and took a short cut out, but Grandpa and grandson persevered.
My friend B and I finally managed our swim date. B had to wait until her wetsuit was back in stock. Neither of us fancied emulating the stoic local ladies in swimsuits. We checked tide times, headed for the harbour at 3pm. It was full of skiffs rowed by teams of 4. No room for us, so we continued along to the Bathing Pool where there were a few canoes but plenty of space. Waves were splashing high on the rocks, which were slippy. I felt off balance and ungainly after months of inactivity, grabbing B’s hand to avoid falling. Eventually I made it into the water, which was not too cold on our faces and hands, but I kept flipping into my back whenever I tried to swim. B meantime was showing off her competent crawl.
After being swept against the concrete wall yet again I was ready to give up. B spotting some jellyfish clinched it and I headed to where Cannyrob was waiting, hand outstretched, to help me out. An inelegant scramble, with my weight dragging him forward, resulted in one of his feet (in his good trainers) being soaked and me landed gasping on the rocks like an upturned turtle Fast forward to B and I hosing each other down in the garden. That’s when I realised I was wearing my wetsuit back to front! It has a chest zip so not as obvious as it might have been.
A garden birthday party two days ago was a really special occasion. Cannyrob’s niece was 18 and it was his first family get together since 2019. It had everything – a gazebo, balloons, music, cake, fireworks, prosecco, unsuitable shoes, and the right mix and number of guests (around 20) for easy social chat. The rain stayed off and we had a lovely time.
My summer reading has been a little less dark than last month. I have read less, talked more! I really wanted to read Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and was pleased to find that my friend A had read it too and wanted to compare notes. Klara is an AF,(Artificial Friend) a domestic android who narrates the story, With undertones of Never Let Me Go, it raises issues of morality and ethics, but Klara’s is the only voice we have. Too many unanswered questions. Maybe it needed to be a bigger book.
I’ve had Daughters of Night on my bedside table for a while, reading it off and on as it is a hefty hardback. I love the way Laura Shepherd-Robinson gets into the characters and atmosphere of Georgian London. A clever murder mystery which made me glad to be a woman now rather then then. The House Between Tides by Sarah Main was a bit disappointing. The Scottish setting was intriguing but the story lacked momentum. The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish was a rather slight mystery set around the river Thames I couldn’t belleve any of the characters or the improbable plot. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, an author I like but gave up on this time The plot, based around avatars and virtual reality, just didn’t grab me. The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward, a well written ghost story about a spooky house and seances, was just too predictable. The Last House on Needless Street was Catriona Ward’s first book and got lots of attenton. I can see why. It is unusual, challenging and clever, like her later work Little Eve and Rawblood. Not for those of a nervous dispostion.
July’s audio book has been a long listen (32 hours) All Hell Let Loose, Max Hastings’ two volume history of World War 11, the result of 35 years of research. I’ve just been listening to the terrible suffering of civilians as a result of the bombing of German cities. My father was one of the young pilots who delivered those bombs. Having been told that targets were industrial, he was distressed in later years to discover the truth.
I hope you are making some use of the new freedoms but also continuing to be wary. We are beginning to make tentative plans for the next few months…..Do get in touch with your thoughts or questions, by email (privately), on social media, or use the reply box below. Keeping in contact with all of you has been brilliant!