When my son Edward went to prep school some ten years ago, he had to write a letter to us each week. Lines ruled on writing paper, pencil at the ready he would tell us about the weather. His father would receive it and come padding through to me saying in an irritated voice, “Why do I want to know about the weather? I can see the weather, why he can’t he write about something else?” I would make such a suggestion to Eddie, who took no notice. Not only would every letter continue to contemplate the weather but, given it annoyed his father, would consider it in even greater length.
The weather, however, remains a central topic of conversation every day. It has been an extraordinary year; from March snows to a deluge of water and now a brown, shimmering savannah. The place to find shelter and shade is always under the trees with their own micro-systems emitting air and moisture and somehow the colour and rustle of the leaves help me feel better and cooler.
My husband is now embroiled in the harvest which has started early, and is happy with the weight and colour of the oats, some of the wheat is good, we are not going to get a second cut of haylage until the autumn and where are the sheep going to find grass?
Sally in the gift shop has sold a lot of sun hats and visitors have wandered around just as the poet A. E. Houseman puts it “the idle hill of summer” with drowsy insects in the wildflower meadow, the house martins reinforcing their nests under the soffits around the Castle courtyard.
Today, it is all change again. As I sit here looking out towards the folly high on the hills – Heaven’s Gate – it is raining and we have the traditional squally British summer weather and I so I rather hope Sally has rain hats and a few of her green ponchos ready to hand in the shop.
Houseman’s poem begins in summer and moves to the battlefields of the First World War:
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.
Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die…….
None that go return again.
It is an uncompromising poem, and reading it today alongside the history of the time can any of us understand why we did not reach a compromise?
Today, our unexpectedly hazy, hot summer has ended and we are dealing with gusty winds and rain instead of blazing sunshine. It is not yet lunchtime. Already I miss it.
I will nevertheless go back for a walk in the rain to the Wood of Goodwill just down from the wildflower meadow, because my old grey Arab mare has died and I thought, in her memory, I would plant a beautiful, white stemmed tree which would glint in the moonlight as she did, turning to me with her dark, wise eyes.
The silver lining is that next week Finse is going to have puppies so I think my office, and Karine and Viking’s office, will all move into the whelping box and the cycle of life will go on.