Today is part of Queer Town Abbey’s Is it summer yet? blog hop in which participating blogs are singing the joys of warm weather and flowers and butterflies.
Or if you’re me, wondering which summer memory to share. Because as with most people, my looking back brings up a haze of memories where everything runs into the next image, and I can’t tell if the summer in which I learned to float in the sea (I called it swimming and who is to gainsay me?) is the same summer that my swimming cossie was this darling pale green affair with masses and masses of shirring elastic—it had an odd bubbly effect on the fabric that I remember thinking was terribly chic—and the same summer where I earned sixpence with the beach ponies or spent hours in the barn using the pile of grain for a slide or had toffee apples where the toffee was a brilliant, clear scarlet that no ruby has ever been able to match.
I don’t think that it’s necessarily that as I’ve got older, my memory has started to fail me. For one thing, it was always pretty shite. But for another, I think it’s more in the nature of summers when you’re a child, for them to merge and coalesce into that indistinguishable haze that reminds me of Golden Syrup slowly, slowly, slowly falling from a spoon in a long amber drop: clear, golden, sweet, rich, endless.
When I was a child, my parents were rather poor. There was never any question of us having a ‘paid for’ holiday. Instead, summers were spent with my grandparents.
Mum’s parents lived on Wynyard Park, then the main estate of the Marquess of Londonderry. Lordy sold up long ago, crippled by death duties. He’s dead himself now, piling another set of debts onto the shoulders of his only son. But back then, Gran and Grandad had a whitewashed cottage, one of a row of four for the estate workers. Grandad worked on the home farm with the chickens whose grain feed my little sister and I treated so summarily, and Gran looked after Lordy’s gundogs. He had thirty or more, maybe: springers, and labradors and spaniels in a small complex of kennels hemmed in by the barns on one side where the hens lived and the orchard on the other. There were gooseberry canes at one side of the orchard, I remember. I love the taste of gooseberries, straight off the cane. It was in Gran’s garden that I first learned to love lupins and also learned that *nothing* enrages an impoverished aristocrat more than your discovering that the house walls are perfect for drawing on using crushed dock leaves to give the brightest green effect, less than two weeks after he had had the entire row of cottages re-whitewashed…
Dad’s mum lived on the coast, at South Shields. Most of his family still does, two or three generations on. It’s a funny sort of resort, probably popular back in the 1920s and never really getting over the Great Depression. But the beach was great for learning to float/swim and why it’s a bad idea to touch jelly fish (they are *squidgy*, for a start). I loved horses as a girl. I know. Every prepubescent girl does. There was never any chance I could ever own a pony or even ride one often, except at the beach. A man had a string of ponies, ten or twelve, maybe, and people paid sixpence to climb up and have a little ride down to Marsden Rock and back, the ponies led by an urchin. And me. For one entire day, I laboured at taking a pony on that little circular trek, always with someone else in the saddle. My pony that day was a tough little Welsh cob, a bay. I walked him up and down that beach for hours. And at the end of the day, when everyone was packing up and going home, I was paid. A sixpence. A lovely, shiny silver sixpence. Which I promptly handed back over to the pony man in exchange for a ride down to the Rock on that pony. I had my priorities, you see. Even then.
To get to another participant’s blog, follow the link back to Queer Town Abbey. Get your chance to win prizes, including an iPod Shuffle— check out the Rafflecopter on QTA’s page and enter the Grand Prize Giveaway.
Comments left here on this post will enter you in a giveaway for my completely unsummery novella, FlashWired. They’re in space, you see, so sadly, seasons are irrelevant to them. Leave your email address in your comment if you’d like to enter the giveaway. When the blog hop ends, I’ll stick a pin in the list of names to choose one, and send you the ebook.
Have a wonderful summer, when it gets here at last.