Archive for the 'Summer' Category

Here comes the sun


After three summers of truly shite weather, the UK is finally seeing some sunshine. It’s 26C (hot by our standards) and it’s predicted to last for at least a week.

Can you imagine? A WHOLE BLOODY WEEK!!

I enjoyed an hour at my allotment last night doing some desultory weeding and watering, but mostly just marvelling at the simple pleasure of feeling the evening sun on my back and watching a slow, late sunset.

As a Californian colleague once told me, the best bit about living in the UK is seeing how overjoyed – how genuinely, riotously happy – everyone is made by a few days of clear weather. “If only it took so little to make most people delirious.”

I guess you have to be British to really understand that.

Posted on 5th July 2013
Under: Summer, Weather | 2 Comments »

Carrots: Third time lucky

early Nantes carrotsIt breaks my heart to see the carrots so tiny at the end of June. They should be edible (if small) by now.

This is my third sowing – the first two failed because the soil was too cold. Normally I can get good germination in early April. This year I had to wait until late May.

Goodness, but things are behind this season. In one respect at least, we’re doing well: There’s no shortage of water. Er, definitely no shortage. It’s hammering down 24/7.

I got a letter from our allotment management reminding us that the hosepipe ban still applies: ‘Unfortunately, Veolia Water is unwilling to lift its restriction.’

Unfortunately? Nobody’s too gutted, pal.

first new potatoes of the seasonIn more heartening news: I dug the first new potatoes today. Perfect size, perfect taste, perfect crop: they’ve kept us waiting, but all this rain is apple mintmaking beautiful spuds. I’ll be eating them tonight boiled with apple mint and decadently buttered. It’s a small delight, but a perfect one: New potatoes, fresh out of the ground, are one of life’s little treasures.

Posted on 22nd June 2012
Under: Potatoes, Roots, Summer | 6 Comments »

The cotton is high

Midsummer is almost here, and I spent an hour on the plot last night weeding.

It’s the first time this year I’ve been able to do that – hitherto it’s been too wet. It was lovely to sit and pull up thistles at 9.30pm while watching the sun gently redden and sink.

Long summer evenings are the great – and probably only – compensation for living in high latitudes. For a few brief (all too brief) months, darkness is banished almost entirely. It seems to be daylight at all hours. I seize every opportunity to be outdoors. It’s magical.

In the crapulous dark depths of January, I try to remember that we’re merely paying the price for June.

PS It’s my birthday. Like Eeyore, I mention this to highlight the dreariness of an annual ritual that serves only to remind you of the transitory and fragile nature of life. Should anyone wish to bestow on me a punctured balloon in a jar, I’d like a red one.

Posted on 19th June 2012
Under: Summer | 9 Comments »

Rain fucks up everything

pissingYuck. We had our moment in the sun (er, 8 days). Now we’re back to what Britain does best: Wet, wild and windy.

It’s always a pain in the arse, but this time it could have been fatal: Poor old Prince Philip obviously got sick standing out all day in the rain on Sunday. No 90-year-old should be expected to endure that. Why couldn’t the poor old bastard sit at home with a cup of tea and a Hobnob?

Gardening is back on hold. After 8 days of lusty growth, every plant on the plot has gone back into a sulk. As have I.

Is there anything this country’s weather can’t spoil?

Posted on 5th June 2012
Under: Rain, Summer | 6 Comments »

Late, late, late… and old

courgettesIt’s all late; I’m about three weeks behind with everything because of the shite weather of the last few weeks.

On the plus side, seeds are germinating at double speed in this heat. These courgette seeds appeared only six days after sowing; some kind of record, surely.

I did five hours at the allotment this weekend, and it dawned on me – for the first time in my life – that I’m getting a bit old for this shit.

I know, I know: 43 isn’t ‘old’. But the simple acts of repeatedly kneeling, bending, getting down, getting up (especially getting up)… they’ve started to feel rather harder work than they used to. When it’s 29C.

Anyway, we keep buggering on.

Posted on 27th May 2012
Under: Cucurbits, Summer | 15 Comments »

It ain’t ‘alf ‘ot

This is a very odd country.

On Sunday evening, the temperature was 10C. It had rained lavishly for six weeks. There was water everywhere – great pools of it sloshing all over the roads, pavements and paths. It was gloomy, dank and chilly. By 6pm, you could see your breath.

It was, in short, bloody miserable.

Fast forward 36 hrs to Tuesday morning. Welcome to mid-summer: 28C, scorching sun, drying earth, claggy shirt sticking to the sweat on your back. Bees buzzing. The co-mingled suburban smells of dust, wisteria and roasting asphalt.

We’ve had three days of it now, and it’s bliss. Albeit bliss tempered with fear – in the UK, you know it won’t last. “Three fine days and a thunderstorm”, as one of our monarchs famously described the British summer.

I’m not too bothered. Just having seen the sun, however briefly, is enough. It’s still there. It’s still possible.

We’re not – after all – living in Hell.

Posted on 25th May 2012
Under: Summer | 3 Comments »

Allotment staycationing

allotment pictureIt’s the time of year when everything’s a-bloomin’ and a-fruitin’. Some nice raspberries, and the early spuds are at last producing.

Sadly, so are the weeds. But that’s life.

In other news, Mrs S has determined that for our holidays this year we’re going… nowhere. Instead, we’re having a ‘staycation’ and remaining firmly at home.

I could kiss her (and will, actually). Jaded as I am by the traditional Soilman holiday, I was getting very antsy at the prospect of an aeroplane trip – any aeroplane trip.

Knowing I don’t have to do it fills me with exquisite relief. No puce-faced child. No screaming blue murder in my ear. No ill-fitting nappies (diapers) leaking their contents on to my trouser leg. No need to spend half my salary at the osteopath on return.

Instead I’ll have a fortnight on the allotment – weather permitting. And how bloody marvellous will that be?

Posted on 29th June 2011
Under: Rants, Summer | 8 Comments »


If you’re unlucky enough to have caught my rantings on Twitter, you’ll know we’ve had rain in south-eastern England.

A fair bit, I’m relieved to report: more than an inch on Sunday night and some good, strong, prolonged showers since.

But you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not hanging out the bunting… yet. After four months of almost total drought, even the 3-4cm of rain we’ve had in the last few days is a piffling drop in the ocean.

I did a bit of digging on my vegetable plot last night, and the ground is still utterly dry below half a spade’s depth.

We need a LOT more rain where that lot came from.

PS One very good thing about the rain is that it’s arrived just in time to bulk up the early new potatoes. A heartfelt ‘thank you’, then, to the Higher Power.

Posted on 9th June 2011
Under: Rain, Summer | 5 Comments »

On holidays

Soilman on holidayThe Planning Dept (aka Mrs Soilman) is slowly turning its attention towards the summer holidays, and I’m worried.

I used to look forward to holidays. That was before I’d taken many.

From a 42-year-old perspective, the 20-year-old’s optimism seems deranged. After climbing into your car, going on holiday is the biggest risk you ever take with your health and sanity.

I’m not even going to mention air travel (the folly of volunteering to cramp yourself into Stephen Hawking’s chair while a small, puce-faced child vomits and screams blue murder into your left ear – for 14 hours – defies rational explanation).

No, my principal beef is that places I can afford to visit (I definitely include my own nation’s offerings in this general judgement) are a bit shit.

Brief diarrhoea

Only in the lives of the super rich are the cabs plentiful and empty, the prices reasonable, the hotel rooms clean and well appointed, the dividing walls soundproofed, the satellite pornography peopled by cheerful and attractive actors, the sunblock effective, the lavatories pristine and unblocked, the maps accurate, the peace of night time uninterrupted by yelling drunks from Morecambe, the wi-fi dependable, the sewers invisible and odourless, the beaches unpolluted by dog shit and engine oil, the flash floods insufficiently violent to wash you off a mountain into the Dead Sea, the transgender prostitutes discreet and inoffensive, the pickpockets clumsy, the child beggars winsome and grateful, the waiters loquacious and amusing, the foreigners unexcitable and anglophone, the tourists indistinguishable from the natives, the local pack animals well fed and kindly treated, the swimming pools uncontaminated by Giardia, the food delicious and hygienically prepared by people who wash their fucking hands, the food poisoning confined to one lavish vomit followed by miraculous recovery, the diarrhoea brief and barely noticeable, the sandflies hypoallergenic, the mosquitoes vegetarian, the sea urchins and lethally poisonous Stonefish confined to the bay used by the other hotel, the hire cars well maintained with working brakes, the roads clearly signposted by somebody who actually wants to help you orientate, the service polite and attentive, the ‘attractions’ cheap and uncrowded, the lie-ins uninterrupted, the only-on-holiday marital sex agreeable to both parties.

In my world, at least half of the above will never be true – wherever we opt to go.

I realise, of course, that I should count myself fortunate to be able to take any kind of holiday. And – with reservations – I do.

But that doesn’t stop the gnawing tension creeping into my consciousness about this time of year.

Having Fun can be so fucking ghastly.

Posted on 29th May 2011
Under: Rants, Summer | 12 Comments »

Ready for Summer. Even though it’s Spring…

gay sunglassesForecast is outrageous (27C, unbroken sunshine, buzzing bees, tweeting birdies etc etc), so I’m donning my gayest pair of shades for a day of flouncing about on the plot. By close of play I will be puce red, shit-smeared, sweat-sodden and very, very happy.


Does anyone else find this weather a little… creepy? I mean, it’s April. FFS. We do not get 27C in April in this country. Most years, we never see 27C ALL YEAR.

I’m enjoying it – believe me, I really am – but at the same time I’m freaked out.

Posted on 23rd April 2011
Under: Summer | 7 Comments »