Sunshine. Blue skies. June.
You wouldn’t think there was much to surprise a person in that combination, would you? In the northern hemisphere, anyway.
Here, in northern England, the leaves are still hesitating.
‘Shall we risk it? Unfurl into that cold, windy world,’ they might be thinking, if they could think.
Yes, the May blossom’s finally out on the hawthorns, but bare twigs and branches remain, obstinate, amid the fresh green foliage of many deciduous trees.
One week’s seen a major change, though.
The carmine peonies have started to shed their lush petals.The royal purple anemones are starting to fade.
Valerian and alliums, chives and thyme and forget-me-nots bloom red and purple, pink and blue.
The aquilegias nod their many-coloured Granny’s bonnets at every zephyr’s breath.
‘Lovely day,’ I greeted Brian, this morning, as he arrived.
‘Sound timing,’ he agreed.
Brian’s a carpenter. Today he’s set his trestles up outside for sawing our new, wooden doors.
Now, though, he’s drilling and hammering indoors – and I’m resorting to blogging. It’s hard to settle to more demanding brain-work when there’s noise and company around.
Earlier, before the world was fully alert (well, before I was) I went on an expedition. Brian reminded me we needed bolts for two of our doors. Silver, to go with the handles.
Cheerful, with a mission in mind, I set out in Issy, our white car, leaving Brian’s white van where normally she would be.
Despite a spectacular mackerel sky and the blazing sun, despite the burgeoning hawthorn hedgerows, despite a general bounciness of demeanour, I was off on a most un-romantic errand.
‘Screwfix’ was my destination.
I have a love-hate-not-quite-sure relationship with Screwfix.
Often, when I get there, a young man is greeting people with a smile and a chat and a joke. Sometimes when he’s not it can be a bit challenging.
There’s that, ‘what’re you doing here? You’re not a tradesperson, this is our territory,’ kind of glare that some people give me. Brian tells me it’s the same for him at some of the timber merchants.
Each specialist organisation, I guess, welcomes its members – official or unofficial – more than it does mere passers-by.
Though an elderly man at Royal Birkdale Golf Club bade me ‘Good morning’ last week when I went in to deliver some misdirected post. So it’s plainly not always, and not universally, applicable.
There’s a major roundabout between here and Screwfix that always worries me – you have to speed onto it at the merest hint of a gap in the traffic.
A bit like French skipping at school – dashing into the two twirling ropes and jumping, not just with speed, but precision.
I made it through the roundabout. Made it through the correct right turn at the correct set of traffic lights – and then, as always, took the wrong turn and ended up in a cul de sac.
A several-point-turn and a right turn across heavy traffic later, I drove past Chubby’s lunch van, already dispensing steaming cuppas and bacon butties, into Screwfix’s parking bays.
Took the catalogue of the back seat, picked up the £5 voucher I’d received in the post – and discovered I’d left my purse at home.
I didn’t pay much attention to anything on the way back, except the speed limits. But at least now I know it’s 3.8 miles from Screwfix home. And 3.8 miles back again.
A pleasant-enough – and patient – young woman fetched a silver lock from the store to show me – after I finally found the right catalogue number. I bought two. With my £5 voucher it was only £6.98.
This time, as I opened the car door and sat behind the wheel, I noticed the world.
I contemplated stopping for a cuppa and butty. But I’d already had breakfast – and anyway, I had a feeling I might get the ‘who do you think you are’ treatment at Chubby’s.
I made it through the roundabout once more and noticed the hawthorn hedges by the hospital. The bushes were so clustered with Mayblossom that they looked as if they’d been dipped in a thick vanilla milkshake.
My heart was beginning to sing.
I switched the radio over to Smooth FM – the daytime choice of many a tradesperson and white van man.
Brian, though, listens to Radio 4 in the morning. We had a discussion about trickle-down economics yesterday, which is how I found out.
I’ve never listened to Smooth FM.
As I tuned in I found myself turning seventeen again, moping in my bedroom. Then eighteen, driving mum’s car to the moors on a sunshiny, holiday-day.
The summer breeze up there blowing through the jasmine in my mind.
But as I slid through the traffic lights at the final turn for home, I was another year older. In tears. A letter from my ex-boyfriend in hand.
I’d dumped him. He was heartbroken.
He’d written that every time he heard, ‘Hey, if you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world,’ he thought of me.
I can still see the ink spreading as a fat tear landed on it.
Even the flattery didn’t cheer me. It plainly wasn’t true. He had a veil of love before his eyes. But it was the first time I’d hurt someone badly – and it upset me, too.
Back in 2015 I arrived home.
Switched off the radio.
Looked up at the slightly more cloudy sky and then at our happy home – and sloughed off the memory.
Two new silver bolts. Ten new wooden doors.
Birch trees nearly fully clothed now, birds carrying twigs and pulling off sweet-scented young herbs for their nests.
Sunshine. Blue skies. June.
And a summer breeze, blowing jasmine memories through my mind.