by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
With the recent assault of unaccustomed dirty grey and cloudy skies (and some much needed though nonetheless pitiful rainfall) I am taken back to what was otherwise a splendid summer. I know this is an unfeeling observation from the vantage of the agricultural members of our community who have had to endure the withering of their crops, but the truth is that for those of us who are sufficiently removed from the immediate effect of the drought (except for the yellowness and brittleness of our small and inconsequential residential lawns), the summer of 2012 has to go down as one of the most gloriously sunny summers in a long while. If you happen to like sunshine, it was a resplendent summer!
For weeks upon end we arose almost every day, day upon day, to crystal blue skies and exceptionally hot early morning temperatures, with the manifest promise of more of the same throughout the remainder of the day, only to be repeated again and again, extending into weeks and even months. Granted the heat was not to the partiality of everyone but with the conspicuous lack of humidity, it was a heat which by comparison to most of equal dimension was tolerable. These conditions were for me perfect for the rehearsal of one of my favourite pass-times; viz., bicycling. Virtually every morning I was prompted by the weather to indulge myself in its excesses, cycling from my home along nearby rural roadways with the freedom of a drifter on the beach. During the week, when I was confined to my professional offices throughout the day, I felicitously repeated the exercise at the end of day. On the weekends I relished longer daybreak tours which I commonly repeated later in the day during the very height of afternoon heat. It took me back to the days of my youth when I would spend the entire day pedaling up and down the Gatineaux Hills, sans food or water, returning home completely exhausted and baked by the blazing sunshine, seemingly approaching self-destruction though for me it was pacifying.
Not all the summer pleasures collateral to the munificent sunshine were quite so edacious or draining as bicycling. Take for example the subsequent morning retreat to the Mississippi Golf Club in the Village of Appleton for one of Wendie MacDonald’s hearty breakfasts! What could be more composing than the preliminary meander along the narrow road bordering the Mississippi River through that incredibly engaging Village, then installing oneself in the easygoing clubhouse surrounded by sprawling lawns, colourful gardens and beckoning river. The energy of the golfers was commensurate to the climbing heat. One Sunday we further profited from the providence of this local treasure to arrange our annual family foregathering, something which the city-dwellers invariably delight in.
And then there were those routine evening ventures onto the back-yard patio under the draping umbrella, flanked by flowering Hibiscus and (admittedly struggling) tomato plants, wafted occasionally by bursts of ambrosial smoke from the barbecue, nurturing a restorative cocktail, picking irresponsibly at hors d’oeuvres, pursuing a bit of Virginia Woolf between glances into the distance at the large waving trees whose soporific branches reminded me of the sea. I would lose myself for a moment in the horizon, then pluck another bit of cheese from the side-plate and return languorously to my reading. These were indeed the halcyon days of summer!
Sometimes we entertained al fresco and capitalized once again on the exceptionally equable weather, the further advantage of which was the absence of the usual flies and mosquitoes which all but didn’t materialize this season. Candles were lit to accompany us and our companions into the cavity of the starry nights. On one occasion our guests even bicycled homeward after the evening victuals!