Heatwave

The jasmine is so sweet that I am obliged to quit my chamber.
Gilbert White, 17th July 1783 (Hampshire)

Intensely hot day—left off a waistcoat, and for yarn wore silk stockings.
S.T. Coleridge 19th July 1803 (Cumberland)

The weather this weekend was so clement, that I was obliged to leave off a waistcoat, and quit my chamber. I set up a deckchair in the garden, and stared at the blue sky, listening to England lose the cricket. Summer, proper summer, has finally arrived, if only for a few days.

This is good. And it is bad. There is nothing less conducive to some good hard study than a sun-drenched day outside. After lunch, in the warmth of the long afternoon, concentration can start to flag. The fans, like the teachers and the traffic and the projectors, drone on, and everyone is gently lulled, reduced to a defenceless state where the best that can be hoped is that a bit of English trickles in at the porches of the ear.

But it is also, as I say, good. The debilitating warmth of a summer’s day is mitigated by the length of the evenings. Summer can be a reflective time, not so much wild fun as slothful rejuvenation, a sort of reverse hibernation. On a long day in summer you are separated from the business of the year, are obliged to quit your chamber, literal or metaphorical, and dwell outside.

Thus we have presentations on a Friday now in the warmth of a crowded garden, quite another thing from the small winter gatherings of cold-weather stalwarts. Everyone basks in a few extra minutes of sunshine, chatting in the warmth. The garden might not smell of jasmine, but it is relatively sweet.

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