Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Scottish autumn or Indian summer?

It's nearly two months since I posted a blog, and I'm feeling rusty. So apologies if today's offering is less than fluent.

I won't bore you with a 'What we did on our holidays' piece. Suffice to say we had rain - often, and sun - occasionally, walked for miles and sat for hours, watched wildlife and the Olympics, made fires on beaches on the warm days, and lit our wood burning stove on the cold ones. The typical British summer holidays.

My daughter went back to school today. The beginning of the Autumn term. And although August has been a warm month here so far, the over-ripe scent of early-autumn is indeed already in the air. All day ranks of cumulonimbus clouds have passed overhead like fleets of battleships, strafing the ground with rain, hard and grey as bullets. When the sun reappears it turns the air humid and musky with the smell of wet hay and drying mud.

But at least the warmth has finally brought out the insects that have been absent for much of the so-called summer up here. The lipstick-pink, open flowers of the huge mallow plant that the rain has pounded flat across our front steps is alive with honey bees - so many that I'm reluctant to move it for fear of being stung. We step over it instead.

And I watched a bumblebee taking nectar from a sweet pea the other day. A perfect demonstration of the ingenuity of plants. As the bee landed on the lower lips of the petals its weight pushed them down and out, revealing a pollen-covered stamen underneath that curved up at the perfect angle to touch the base of the bee's abdomen. Presumbly the covering mechanism prevents the pollen being damaged or eaten instead of being transferred. Genius.

 Dozens of small tortoiseshell, peacock and white butterflies prefer the tiny, purply flowers of the marjoram that is slowly taking over the garden. When the showers come through the insects dive for cover, emerging with the sun like visible perfume wafting over the flowers.

I suppose, rather than calling this autumn, I should think of it as an Indian summer - complete with monsoons and the exotic fragrance of incipient decay. At least that way I'll feel we've had some kind of summer.

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