We are still somewhat sweltering in the late summer heat. Evenings of light rain have lessened the stress on the plants a little, but it hasn’t really penetrated and a few centimetres down it is still dry and earthenstone hard. After a burst of enthusiasm getting four of the new peonies in, taking some “insurance” pelargonium cuttings and repotting Pip the lemon tree (which, Lazarus-like, has regenerated nicely from the bare twig which had thrown off all of its leaves in May) I have stalled. A period of conceptual gardening from the sun lounger on the gin terrace is called for I think.

In a similar, sedentary, vein, to kick off the Christmas knitting season and limber up I have finally finished the minuscule baby cardigan which has been languishing on the pins for months. The intended infant will by now be much too large but Lachlan assures me he will be able to find a home for it (I’m only slightly traumatised to find that the baby of the family has friends who are themselves having babies). I am still mulling over potential sewing projects, not least as it is a bit too hot to linger in the garret for too long). These will, however, definitely include a replacement for the nursery curtain summer dog walking gilet which has sadly expired and, as you will see, is sorely missed. The accompanying winter book selection has kicked off in earnest with Cranford (Mrs Gaskell- the audiobook was absolutely delightful), the Half Life of Valery K (Soviet era nuclear leak drama by Natasha Pulley which had beautifully drawn characters), a very interesting book about rewilding in abandoned land (Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn) and the delightfully gruesome Jasmine Sharp crime trilogy by Christopher Brookmyre.

Lyra and I have continued stoically with the long walks and, in Lyra’s case, wild swimming. The hedgerows are asmoke with thistledown and smouldering fireweed and the butterflies and bees are down to the few remaining hawksbit, cranesbill and yarrow – all else is turned to seed. But for the birds (and foraging dog walkers) there are treats to come in the way of hips and haws and berries. I have carefully noted the first few sloes – only two so far – barely enough for a nip of gin, but hopefully more will emerge. The river is still low, but at least reaching past the ducks’ knees. Down by the Lees the pebbly Atlantis is still visible, but those gulls who invested in shore developments are now chattering about the merits of indoor swimming pools. On the stretch by Norham, the cygnets have grown huge, but are still pleasingly fluffy, and a colony of cormorants (initially identified as painfully thin river penguins) have taken up residence on the far bank. I’m not sure what these make of our latest game of clapping and yodelling to confuse Lyra with the echoes under the bridge. Perhaps they will apply for an ASBO.

We may be lengthening the routes, but the lingering, sultry heat has slowed our pace. Lyra staged a sit down protest in the shade of a tree a couple of days ago and yesterday we had to retrace our steps by the river not once but twice. (The winter library curtain gilet, donned for the sake of pockets in the absence of a viable summer one, proved much too hot and the flapping necessary to keep me from melting resulted in the dropping first of the phone and then later, the car keys – all thankfully recovered). This may explain why the effect on the “summer thickening” has thus far been marginal in my case and non existent in Lyra’s (adverse news from the vet’s scales today). Ah well, who knows what the rest of the month will bring. Salad, I expect.

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