Summer 2023 in Britain was blazing sun, drought, floods, gales, suffocating high pressure, storms, the hottest July and the coolest August for many years, and a two-week 'Indian summer' at the beginning of September that included blue-sky days of record temperatures in the south of England. In the rest of the world, apocalyptic natural events: wild-fires, floods and earthquakes devastating land and killing thousands of people and billions of other creatures, burst dams, floods, the melting of the arctic permafrost, record shrinking of the Antarctic ice-cap and destruction of glaciers and mountain snow and ice. World-wide politics and wars are everywhere reflecting and exacerbating the changes to our habitat on planet Earth.
In the midst of these signs that we're living through the End of Days, I carry on, like most people not directly affected in their daily lives by natural and man-made disasters, trying not to panic, making the most of what we're so fortunate to have day-to-day. Continuing to paint, draw and visit other countries continues to be important in my life, and gardening — the classic hobby of retirement — has been added in the past few years. And at the end of the summer, in the first two weeks of September, we flew to Portugal for a two week break in Porto, a city that we visited last year and have learned to love.
For me Summer 2023 was a season of highs and lows. The garden flourished in Mediterranean heat, with daily watering and tending; August brought nourishing rain and more welcome temperatures for flowers and vegetables. We grew vegetables — tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions, lettuce, garlic, beans, courgettes and even a few peppers — and were able to give produce away to some friendly new neighbours. Clare, to whom we're immensely grateful, took great care of the garden when we went away on holiday in September.
We lost some flowering plants to the heat (the roses, in particular, were not happy) but introduced an exotic canna lily root from a local charity fair which turned out to be a great addition to the garden. Inspired by the varied colours and forms of the flowers, in July I began painting again after a break of over three years. The Sweet Williams I grew from seed in 2022 finally flowered in a riot of red, pink and white patterned petals in May, June and July, and I painted them on 20cm square box canvases. In August I made little paintings of some of the gladioli that have been established since I bought their bulbs online at the beginning for the Covid lockdown in 2019, and the pink cone-flowers I planted as tiny plugs at about the same time (they seem indestructible now.)