Rain didn’t stop play in the month that ended yesterday; July gave the nation its warmest spell of the year, even if the nation itself, like much of the world beyond Britannia’s borders, isn’t exactly basking in any sort of warm glow. A chill seems to be blowing around the globe that is considerably icier than your average summer breeze. Appalling acts of brutality committed in the name of Allah on European soil have complemented ongoing barbarous behaviour in the Middle East, whereas America appears to be engaged in a mini-Civil War, both on the streets and on the hustings.
Britain remains caught in an uncertain cycle of post-Brexit paranoia, whereby an increase in recorded ‘hate crime’ is being blamed on the Leave vote whilst the bad losers continue to stamp their feet to a petulant beat because they didn’t get the result they wanted. As an intended antidote to the daily diet of despair, tabloids and online news sites are concocting an abundance of ‘who-gives-a-shit’ celebrity stories that are phenomenally banal even for the silly season, whereas the electronic baby’s dummy that is the Smartphone has encouraged its most extreme fanatics to take idiocy to an unprecedented level as they participate in a mass treasure hunt for the chronically stupid.
The Commons may have officially gone on a summer holiday, but ‘no more worries for a week or two’ is hardly applicable where the two main parties are concerned. As the honeymoon draws to its inevitable close, Theresa May’s in-tray will keep her busy during the break; and having taken a scythe to the Notting Hill Tories, banishment to the backbenches will not silence the likes of Michael Gove, with or without prominent Brexiteers being entrusted with the task of extricating the country from the EU. Labour, of course, have internal concerns to contend with as the ugly battle between the Parliamentary Party and the membership is poised to climax with September’s leadership contest. North of the Border, Nicola Sturgeon is tentatively drumming up support for a replay of 2014’s Independence Referendum, whilst Northern Ireland’s border with Eire is once again a worry in the wake of showing Brussels the back-door.
The Welsh impressed at Euro 2016, even if their semi-final defeat showered the team in the usual patronising plaudits that accompany a national side punching above its weight (’They’ve made lots of friends’ etc.); meanwhile, England’s dismal performance at the tournament has led to the unexpected appointment of Sam Allardyce, a man none of the preening prima donnas promoting shampoo and clogging up the team would want to meet down a dark alley, let alone in a changing room at halftime. At least Brits can cheer Andy Murray as the sporting standard-bearer yet again, following his second singles title at Wimbledon; and though not quite a household name equal, Chris Froome’s third triumph in the Tour de France should ensure his place amongst the greats of Kenyan…er, sorry…British cycling. With the Olympics imminent – Russian participation or no – and an England Vs Pakistan test series evenly balanced, the back pages still possess the prospect of national morale-boosting.
Now that school is out for summer, there will be an unwelcome increase in brats wherever members of the public are forced to congregate; that they are permanently chaperoned these days means they’re harder to avoid than they used to be, and I confess I do harbour some sympathy for the parents faced with no option but to keep them entertained in ways their own parents didn’t have to. Staying indoors will be the default comfort zone for many children, even if it won’t help obesity levels as their tablets transfix them. Mind you, try to get the kids of today to watch ‘The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe’ or ‘The Flashing Blade’ in daily rationed instalments and they’ll look at you like you’re an idiot. Probably.
At least there’s always the Proms – a cultured refuge from the madness. As a child, I was only ever exposed to the Last Night, imagining that jingoistic celebration of the chinless constituted the entire institution. Ironically, the household contained numerous Classical LPs, including Holst’s ‘The Planets’, with ‘Mars’ being a favourite soundtrack for battles between toy soldiers. And I owe my love of the Proms to that same suite, a televised 1999 performance of which prompted me to catch the festival earlier than its trumpeted finale for the first time. Since then, the opportunity to escape to the Albert Hall via the cathode ray tube (or whatever lurks behind the TV screen these days) is one I’ve enthusiastically embraced every summer. I actually applauded at the end of Beethoven’s Ninth when Daniel Barenboim concluded his memorable season in 2012, conducting all of Ludwig Van’s symphonies; it was the next best thing to being there, and long may it stay that way.
I admit summer isn’t really my favourite time of the year, and this summer has been especially traumatic. As a child of autumn, I actually relish the changing of the clocks and the transformation of greenery into orangery; I welcome the first switching-on of the fire and the drawing-in of the nights; night should resemble night, not an extended afternoon. Cold is something you can keep at bay by wrapping up, whereas even shedding clothes can’t defeat heat; the resumption of slumber uninterrupted by horrible humidity is something that can’t come soon enough for me – though I do appreciate I’m in a minority, a minority that couldn’t care less about Hiddleston or Middleton or Pokémon Go.
© The Editor