Monday, 21 June 2010

The English Summer, forever fleeting

A great friend of mine once told me feelingly how much he hated arranging his family’s summer holiday too far in advance: ‘You get it booked then you wait and it never comes’ was his existential complaint. Thus, the burden of hope and expectation that falls on an English summer, and the shadowing sense of inevitable disappointment - some of which I find myself feeling whenever I see Magritte's famous 'Empire of Light' (pictured).
This morning London bathes in high June heat, pools of shade and light glinting off any exposed hard surface. It’s the longest day of the year, and for me that always comes too soon, feels like a premature curtain drawn down on the possibility of ‘Summer.’ ('Dark nights coming now, just you watch...') But maybe it’s part of the process, the turning of the earth, the subjective experience of Time.
21 years ago this month I sat my Eng Lit A level paper, composing my no-doubt deathless responses to a set of classic texts that included The Great Gatsby: the sort of novel a young person should read regardless of curriculum, and which will linger in the mind of any reader. Today is the day in the calendar when I always think of that enviable nameless sylph at one Gatsby soiree who says:
"In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year... Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it."
I only wish I could be so negligent… For me, though, the tenor is more in line with Tom Waits as ‘Benny’, the ponderous soda fountain proprietor in Francis Coppola’s Rumblefish – my favourite movie when I was 14, and still a cracker, I assume:
"Time is a funny thing. Time is a very peculiar item. Y'see, when you're young, you're a kid, you got time, you got nothing but time. Throw away a couple of years here, a couple of years there... it doesn't matter. Y'know? The older you get you say, "Jesus, how much I got left? I got thirty-five summers." Think about it. Thirty-five summers..."
That many? Still, what are we waiting for?

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