PHIL CALVERT: The living certainly isn’t easy in the summer of 2012

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AFTER working seven days a week, since late February, it was with happy anticipation that I Iooked forward to our summer season, when with the main bedding plant season tailing off, I have Mondays and Tuesdays off.

After all that hard work, it was a nice bit of nonsense to dream of at last sitting outside in the summer sun, to a backing track of birdsong, watching bees bumble and butterflies flutter among the flowers, as with the warm sunshine on my face, I gently drain a glass of cellar-cool perfect ale, bringing together delicate fruit flavours with a subtle sweetness. Wonderful. Ahhh, summertime and the living is easy!

Sadly in the summertime of 2012, the living has been anything but easy.

From across the UK, there have been endless reports of heavy rain, torrential downpours causing flooding, swollen rivers and houses and businesses under several feet of water.

Pity those people in Hebden Bridge flooded three times in two weeks. If we didn’t know before, we definitely know what an “amber warning” for rain is now. Rain happens, we all know that, but I honestly cannot remember a spring and summer season when the weather has been so persistently wet.

People in the horticultural trade have long had to cope with the vagaries of the weather. We hope for good weather between March and June, but we know it will not be a smooth ride and wet weather and Bank Holidays seem to go hand-in-hand.

When the good weather arrives, there can be no industry which is able to adapt to the sudden surge in demand like horticulture. That brief dry, even hot, period of about two weeks in late May proved critical to many horticultural growing. Apart from the odd day in June, that constituted our season.

People inevitably moan about the constant disappointing weather but so harsh has this season been, it is now starting to impact on the wider economy. When it is torrential, why go to the Lakes, especially with fuel the price as it is?

Sales of summer clothing at even our most resilient retailers have been hit hard. They are starting to discount stuff. Hard times! Now we have farmers worrying about crops struggling to grow in water-logged fields. If things don’t pick up weatherwise, I can see fresh veg and fruit prices going up soon.

I had anticipated trips out on my newly-granted days off, but the weather has been so unsettled, I have not felt inclined to travel. Instead I have pottered around catching up on overdue jobs at home, at my youngest daughter’s house where she has a “To Do” list as long as my arm.

When the rains come thundering down I have been pulling up carpets, filling skips and doing a lot of fetching and carrying, and because it is so wet, I do not begrudge my precious time. As soon as the sun does make a brief apprearance, however, I have got outside and tried to bring my garden up to scratch.

Last Monday provided one such opportunity. As heavy showers fell on Whalley, Blacko and Burnley, amazingly we had no rain at all at home. Wifey and I very successfully spent the whole day in the garden, cutting back overgrown shrubs, cleaning garden furniture, sweeping off the paths and patio and making a few late additions to our pots of flowers on the decking.

We even sat outside near the pond to eat our lunch watching the fish cruise luxuriantly through the crystal clear waters, jarred abruptly into frenzied feeding activity when I tossed in some fish food before, with everything eaten, serenity is once more restored. Not exactly, catfish jumping but very pleasant nevertheless.

We stayed in the garden all day, only retiring indoors for our evening meal. It had been a very good day and it felt like we had once more taken possession of the garden.

Those few hours of sunshine and a day without rain really lifted our spirits. Just to feel the sun on our backs once more for even a few days would lift everyone’s spirits.

We need some sunshine to bring back a feel-good factor.

Unfortunately, for now, the weather isn’t playing ball, so grab every opportunity as it presents itself and get out there.

The cotton may not be high, but just a few hours can make you feel summer is here and make you feel on top of the world.