Monday, 4 May 2009

Easy living in the summer time

Last year the British summer occupied three or four days in May. So when this May started with two days of fine weather, Danielle and I decided to make sure that we didn’t inadvertently miss out on what might turn out to the summer of 2009.

We spent Sunday visiting the famed bluebell woods at Tettenhall College, an independent school in Wolverhampton. There were a few bluebells but hardly the carpets the term ‘bluebell woods’ might lead you to expect. All the same, the woods were worth a visit: they blanket a steep slope down from the main buildings of the school, themselves set in heavy vegetation crossed by nature trails, to the playing fields at the bottom, for cricket, football, rugby, athletics and so on.

Janka, our dog, found a discarded rugby ball and forced us to kick it for her, until she was exhausted and panting in the heat, and then some more. As we went back up through the woods, we discovered an old stone trough full of brackish water and pointed it out to her so that she could have a drink. In her enthusiasm she slipped on the edge and fell straight in, which refreshed her considerably but left her with an odour that made a bath essential when we got back.
George and Janka look on as Jenny demonstrates the use of the athletics facilities at Tettenhall College

She doesn’t enjoy baths, but fortunately our neighbours Jenny and George had come on the visit with us – and behaved impeccably despite being fifteen and eleven respectively: when people tell me that today’s young people aren’t like we were, I have to agree for my part at least, since I know I never behaved that well – and they volunteered to help Danielle with the bathing process and seemed to get a kick out of it.

Tettenhall’s playing fields, the woods, the pets’ corner, the delightful school hall, all bathed in sun, made for a memorable visit. It shows that school education can be a fabulous experience in England – if you can spare £26,000 a year per child, at a time when the British median salary is £25,000 (the school charges £3,700 a term for day pupils; state expenditure on education is about £3800 per student per year).

Misty, our cat, didn’t come with us but he’s been taking advantage of the summer too. Like the US army, he feels free to wander in anywhere he chooses, though I’m glad to say he causes slightly less damage. He goes to the neighbours’ houses to eat their cats’ foods. When Jenny and George’s mother Melanie was unwell and in bed recently, she found him curled up next to her, making it impossible to move her legs. What’s anybody’s is Misty’s. After we got back from Tettenhall, George had some energy left and decided to dig over a patch of our front garden (yes, our front garden. What most amazes me is that when I was eleven, it took threats of dire consequences to get me to do so much as mow a lawn let alone dig anything. Come to think of it, mowing a lawn isn’t something I easily work up enthusiasm for even now).

It was fun watching George work (it’s always fun watching someone else work), particularly as Misty had decided that George exists for his amusement and kept darting at him, sitting in the middle of the patch he was trying to turn over or launching daring and unprovoked attacks on recently turned clods of earth. It was a great spectacle as the sun went down on a good day.

Misty makes himself comfortable and gives budding photographer Jenny subject matter to play with.

The biter bit: Jenny photographs Danielle photographing her

Today’s cold and rainy. The summer’s probably over. But we enjoyed it while it lasted.


Mark Reynolds said...

Summer will be in Strasbourg Thursday, leaving Friday evening. I'm keeping my Bermuda shorts on high alert.

David Beeson said...

Just wishing you a pleasant summer and hoping that you have leisure to enjoy it in full. Make sure you have a (small) tube of sun screen and try to hire a deck chair (certainly not worth buying one).

Enjoy yourself!