As you know, the U.K. is a land of cream teas, gentle hills and unsuitable climate. If we need rain, the sun belts down in a sizzling blast wave of heat that bakes and pinks the unpractised natives, dries up the reservoirs and fries eggs on any horizontal surface. If some warmth would be nice, the sky goes a colour best described as “English grey” and dumps a year’s worth of rainfall in a fortnight. The Wimbledon tennis tournament is an excellent example of the phenomenon.
Zantedeschia aethiopicta (calla)
Weather reporters have got it wrong all this week. I have surmounted this by treating their earnest assurances as you should use my travel guidelines; move in the opposite direction and you won’t go far wrong. I weeded and planted yesterday in sunshine and balmy breezes, when monsoons were forecast. Today it’s pissing it down, which will save me from bustling about with a watering can. This is a great reason for a horticulture habit in the first place. Being a body who truffles for that silver lining, I can look out at the rising tide of mud and water and think well, it’s good for the garden.
Cornus kousa (dogwood)
In my opinion, it is our summer which has made the British great. No matter how soggy the picnic site, we will spread out our rugs and unpack our damp sandwiches. We battle to light the primus to make tea, even though a force nine gale keeps blowing out the flame and the matchbox has a high tide line. In the past I have adjured my children to make crunching noises, if the crisps were too wet to do it for them. I’ve spent all week preparing the food for this outing, so you are going to bloody well enjoy yourself. Start having fun before I lose my patience. Games of rounders, cricket or soccer depend on the wind being fierce enough to blow the ball far beyond the outfield and into the heaps of cow, horse or sheep shit. Large farm animals lurk behind every tree, for the sole purpose of leaping out and startling the young or elderly, preferably those with a weak bladder. Stands of stinging nettles in sheltered dells which would otherwise be ideal for alfresco peeing, are just the icing on the cake.
Dracunculus vulgaris (dragon arum)
My house is positively pocked with water butts, to take advantage of my country’s largesse. I inherited my hose from my father, complete with a tangled, kinked pipe, leaking connections and a recalcitrant trolley which only worked in reverse. That is, it ejected more hose when I tried to roll it up and sucked it back into its innards when I wanted to put it to work. Each time that I used it prompted happy memories of my sweet tempered, noble parent, fighting the equipment into submission. It was one of the few things at which he swore. The outdoor stove and kettle was another. When I had exhausted my own extensive repertoire of dirty language, I acquired a watering kit on a wall mounted self winding reel. It works beautifully. If I need something to provoke ugly oaths and ghastly blasphemy, I can always watch ball sports on television.