by Pat Whalley

THOSE LAZY, HAZY, CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER                        

We are slowly getting into summer, a few hiccups but the weather is mainly hot and sunny,  time to climb out of bed early to start my day while it is cool.  Linger under the sheet too long and the day is getting warm and soon it is too hot to do outdoor work.

Even though this time of year makes us want to move more slowly to avoid working up a sweat, the garden still seems eager to produce all sorts of greenery, including weeds.  The border round my patio decided to go on a growing frenzy which resulted in roses sprouting three feet of thorny branches and grasses growing a minimum of eighteen inches in about ten days.  What is with the stuff?  I didn’t put any miracle hormones on them they just went crazy with out any help.

Three weeks ago I had a huge bank of snow white blossom that hung over my patio wall and inspired Dave to take photographs, the same plant is now just a huge cloud of dead heads that look untidy.  The result of this meant two long bouts of pulling grass and dead heads, also some selective pruning of the stray rose branches.  Two separate three hour sessions saw the border looking really neat and tidy again, with all my summer flowers able to be seen, however each of the sessions turned me into a sweaty, exhausted mess.  I know that ladies are supposed to “glow”, not sweat, but I was glowing so much that it was running down my legs and puddling in my shoes.  It was all I could do to drag myself into the shower.

Afterwards I rested in my recliner and dreamed about summers of the past.  Remember the days when kids would go out after breakfast, take a bottle of water and some jam sandwiches in a bag and disappear until dinner time?  One of us would gather up all the neighbourhood kids and we would disappear into the countryside, which was only a short walk from our homes.  My grandma lived on the edge of the village so it was only minutes until we were in open fields where there were streams, wild flowers and all sorts of adventures.

Mornings were spent in fields of hay, cut and left to dry, what a great game we had of burying ourselves in huge mounds of the sweet smelling stuff.  Once the hay had been gathered in we would go into the hay barns and spend an hilarious couple of hours jumping from high ledges into the soft hay.  When we tired of that we would head across the field to the stream which ran into a waterfall.  This was quite small but still a big adventure for us to wade in the deep water that accumulated before it dropped over the edge, into the cascade of white water.  It was only about four foot deep above the falls but great for rafting and paddling about.  We girls used to stuff our dresses into our underwear but still get soaked.  Nobody had shorts in those days and young boys wore short pants, made of the same suiting material as long trousers, so I’m sure that a day of getting soaked did nothing for the fabric.

Later on we would go to the grotto at the bottom of the falls and enjoy our lunch on the grassy bank of the stream.  It was always interesting to see what other kids had brought for lunch.  It was always sandwiches but what a variety.  I always had home made jam but one of the boys loved malt vinegar soaked onto his bread.  It would make your mouth pucker to eat it but it tasted delicious when you were hungry.  One girl brought sugar sprinkled on her bread and butter and others had bacon fat.  No peanut butter in England at that time, well certainly not in our area, but it was great to share the bounty that our joint picnic brought.   England was still experiencing food rationing until 1952 so none of us expected anything more exotic than our humble fare.   Afternoons would be spent making daisy chains to adorn our heads and necks while the boys would find sticks and race them in the shallow water.

Such innocent sun filled days of unsupervised fun.  Nobody drowned, nobody caused any problems and the most mischief we got into was chasing the cows in the nearby field, I think the eldest of us was only about nine years old but none of the parents seemed to worry about harm coming to us.  Indeed a much simpler time.

As the sun started to head west, we would all amble home together, nobody wanting to go in their homes yet but we knew we had to be within earshot for when the dinner call came out of each kitchen door.   After dinner, it was time for dishes, no point arguing about that, and then it was time to get washed and undressed.  Quite often there would be a radio show on that grandma and I sat and listened to, Dan Dare or Journey into Space, or a comedy show.

No tv in those days and certainly no electronic games.  Most families owned a Ludo game, and some dominoes or a pack of cards, but these were family games usually kept for Sundays when playing outdoors, at least in our home, was forbidden.  I was usually allowed a half hour to read in bed before lights out, by which time I was ready to sleep anyway.  I wonder what kids today would think of our “poor childhood”, they would probably be horrified at how impoverished we were, we didn’t even have a telephone to talk to our friends.  There were no such things as sleep overs and usually bed time was strictly observed, even in summer.

Looking back it sounds like we were hard done to, by today’s standards, but how many of your grandchildren know the joy of hiding in piles of sweet hay, paddling without supervision and enjoying grubby sandwiches and tepid water that five or six of us shared from the same bottle.  What were we really missing?  I think very little!

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1 Response to by Pat Whalley

  1. Kathleen Farrell says:

    Pat you have a way of transporting me back to my youth. I can read your story and taste the sandwiches. Somehow there is a lot to be missed in our speeded up technological world. I am very grateful to have been born “way back when” in a simpler time. Thanks again my friend

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