Friday, July 31

Ode to the Wimbledon fortnight

Oh, Wimbledon fortnight, you are my favourite fortnight.

You define a perfect part of the summer. A time when I don't have to think twice about wearing shorts. A time when grass and flowers and fruit are bright, before the season ages into dark greens and rusted yellows.
This is the part of summer when I am powered by a constant friendly sunlight, and iced coffee is a novelty, and it still feels refreshing that I am exercising my body and not my brain, and the garden spiders haven't got terrifyingly fat yet, and I am outside more than I am inside.
And yes, Wimbledon fortnight, you have your faults. Each time Federer plays you give me nerves and heart palpitations to rival Mrs Bennet's. Sometimes you invite the rain and everybody jostles grumpily with their umbrellas. Sometimes dinner is really late because nobody can tear their eyes away from a long match. "Just one more game, and then I'll..." is the mantra you feed us. But your two weeks are the only two weeks of the year where I am productive enough to conquer my to-do list before 1pm, so that I can watch tennis all afternoon.

This year I was lucky enough to actually go to Centre Court, for the second time in my life, to watch the men's quarter finals. (It was also the second time in my life I *just* missed out on seeing my man Federer play; less lucky.) But still, lucky, because so many others are classed/priced out, and seats are taken up by corporate fatcats who get to go every year and spend most of the time boozing in the restaurant, emerging only to applaud Murray. Don't get me started on the Royal Bores.

SW19 is a strange unreal world of rich folk and overpriced Pimms. But it is also a stage for some of the world's greatest sportsmanship and athletic talent, poised perfectly against a backdrop of high summer. Wimbledon fortnight, you are two weeks of an almost magical season I can never reconjure come January. A fortnight where everything, even my reading list, shimmers with unlimited possibility. Where the grass is green on every side, and every court (well, you do go a bit bald round the baselines).

You are my favourite fortnight.

Friday, July 24

Lake District ferns and fells

Last summer I spent a bit of time in the Lake District. The dramatic wild beauty of this piece of the north west seems almost unrelated to the England I'm familiar with - an army of neat three bed semis patrolling a patchwork quilt of tidy fields. Though the lakes themselves are relatively placid (fun fact: there is actually only one 'lake' in the Lake District - Bassenthwaite - the rest are 'waters', 'tarns' or 'meres'), they sit always in the rugged dark presence of the surrounding fells. These fells are both sinister and stunning. The terrain feels very old; once you get walking all signs of modern day civilisation are replaced by a sense that this environment belongs to another age. Then you reach a summit and see the land spread out all around, and if southern England is a patchwork quilt, the Lake District is that same quilt thrown over some slumbering gargantuan, ancient beast.

Not all walks have to conquer summits though. There is a walk where you zigzag your way from Stair to Buttermere, following a narrow path which skirts along the sides of fells. In and out you walk, tracing their bulky diameter. The fells rise sharply up one side of you and fall away the other, down to streaks of water which slip under and over the land. You wade through ferns and purple heather, jump across waterfalls, disturb the peace of the sheep who call these hillsides home, and descend through woods, past a churning ravine. The finish line is the pub in Buttermere.