I know summer's coming

Trip Start Sep 30, 2005
Trip End Jun 04, 2006

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

In front of me on the path lay hundreds of small, round white dots. The petals of the spring blossoms have done their job for another year, and fallen scattered on the ground like early snowflakes. The leaves of the hawthorn bushes beside the traffic lights are so vibrantly fresh and green that they seem to be pulsing and growing before my eyes. Overhead, the sky is brilliant blue and even at 7am the sun is warming the air fast. It feels like summer for the first time this year and at lunchtime London's parks are sure to be full of frolicking office workers, and equally surely their faces will appear in tonight and tomorrow's newspapers. It is a rite of passage for the English summer. With equal certainty the rite decrees that it will certainly rain again soon, but today is fresh and new and everything is beautiful.

The train journey through the Kentish countryside to London is one I've made hundreds of times. The unique perspective of the train window on the beautiful early summer patchwork of the Garden of England is enhanced by the window's tinted glass which accentuates the greenness of it all. To make such a journey on a daily basis can be a privilege and not the chore that some would have it. You know what you might see through your window, but never quite what to expect.

Today, after weekend rains the grass is a little greener and lusher and the rabbits are out in abundance enjoying an early morning feast. The sun has woken the swan a little earlier than usual from its lakeside resting place and it stretches its slightly ungainly wings as we pass. The rape seed growing in a sloping field is in full vibrant flower at the top of the hill, but not yet at the bottom of the slope where the plants look like gangly late developing teenagers. In the thinned out copses of beech the violet of the bluebell carpet is visible for the first time. It is to be savoured for we know it will not stay long. Flocks of sheep hint to the farmer that it might be time for shearing as they seek the shade of the hedgerows and huddle together beneath overhanging trees. A small number of crows sit defiantly on the ground either eyeing or totally oblivious to a seriously oversized scarecrow which is more likely to scare the train passengers than the birds. Overhead a pair of geese fly on their own commute. The golf course green keeper trims the putting surface on the silent, empty tableau of a golf course, and the groundsmen of the sports grounds have been busy removing football posts and replacing them with white boundary markings and neatly cut strips on the fields where cricket will take over for the summer months.

The familiarity that allows me to perceive and enjoy these small changes in the landscape around me is a strange thing. Not only are there the opportunities to appreciate the natural surroundings, but the human impact on the landscape is an integral part of its make up. The aesthete might have it that man's image and all sign of life is a scar and should be removed from the land to offer a more idyllic view, but personally, for all the irritation I experience at much of the ill-conceived urban development in this part of the UK, the scruffy station yards and platforms loaded with ghoul-faced early morning commuters are part of the scene.

For my part, I admit to an unashamed sentimentality - not that it does anyone any good - about this scene. The human interjection in the landscape is part of that feeling born of understanding something of the lives people live within this setting. That recognition of the people and the wider sentiment with which it is intertwined is born purely of familiarity. For all that we travel and explore the World, there is always a counterbalance in remembering that familiarity should not be allowed to breed contempt for it gives you the opportunity to explore new perspectives in itself. I wonder what all of the snoring commuters around me would make of my contemplation!

Of course, it could just be that today is a beautiful morning in spectacular surroundings, and that on a day like this everything seems good. Summer is almost with us.
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