Forgive me for making an assumption here, but I’m guessing that when the summer sun is beaming it’s hard to ignore the lure of your own garden, right? If you ignore the other options like shopping, swimming, heading for the beach, hiking (blergh) and watching TV (for those who shun the sun at all costs), the garden is the place to be. The UK has had a pretty mixed bag of weather over the summer but when the clouds aren’t blessing the country with oceans of happy rain, the sun and blue skies are glorious.
Usually I’m the first to grab my towel and sprint for the car when the hot weather slam dunks the country. But last week I figured why bother sitting in traffic jams for hours to spend an afternoon at the beach when I can relax in the back garden and enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet?
Crackin’ plan, right dear blog reader?
Um. Well. Sort of. In theory.
I’m not that into flaunting my flesh under the baking rays of the sun. I don’t enjoy it. Getting my skin burnt to a crisp isn’t my idea of fun. But I do like being outdoors, albeit in the shade. So I gathered my laptop, a cool drink, shorts and t-shirt, and eased into a chair at the table in our back garden. I hadn’t done any writing for a week and was feeling the itch to plough up the words of my current edit.
Once settled I supped my cool beverage, flexed my fingers, scrolled to the right spot in my novel (took a photo) and dived right in. And for a time things were good. In the distance an ice-cream van twinkled its music. A few dogs barked in neighbouring gardens, though not too much or for too long, thankfully. The heat and humidity tend to suppress even the most eager of dogs. Funny how it doesn’t have the same effect on neighbours children laughing.
Sigh. I don’t mind them laughing. Hey, I was a kid once.
I just don’t remember laughing for 5 hours straight. Nothing was ever that funny.
A bit of background noise is acceptable. Isn’t it?
It’s the price to pay for enjoying an afternoon of writing in the sun. I cracked on until next doors burglar alarm started to sing. That’s okay. It only goes off for about 10 seconds. Every couple of hours. They obviously have a problem with their wiring as it goes off like that 24/7. We got used to it after the first few days. Not long after that someone next door thought it would be a good idea to ruin the almost silence with a lawn mower. Right up against the fence.
With a grimace I concentrated on my writing.
Our other neighbours, on the other side, lead an active life. Always coming and going. Cars crunching on the stones out back. Engines revving. Doors slamming. Gates creaking. Noise. Laughter. Dogs bark when they hear a car pulling in Our dogs, happy to hear another dog bark, also start barking. But that’s okay too. Like the burglar alarm the happy exchange of barks is over pretty quick, and other than a final huff from little Ben (you can just see him behind my glass of coke in the photo) the excitement is over for a while.
I block out the noise. Words. Concentrate on the words. They mean something. Must edit those words.
And then my phone beeps. I’d forgotten to put it on silent. I have a serious dislike for phones when I’m writing. I hit the cancel button and switch it off. No more derailments from you Mr Nokia. Thank you very much. A few seconds later the land line squawks. I’m grateful the handset is inside the house, but the “answer me answer me answer me” ring tone makes me grate my teeth.
Yes! Thank God for answering machines.
I put my fingers in my ears so I don’t hear the message. From inside the house someone calls out that the message was for me, something about my sister, something about my phone being turned off, meeting up for lunch, when and where and can I call her back…something, something. I’ll call her later. She can wait. Lunch is tomorrow and that’s a million years away.
Sunshine and writing. That’s what I’m there for.
The next derailment comes when I’m asked if I want a drink.
Hands poised above the keyboard.
No thanks. Got one. Bye then.
Another question – bacon sandwich?
Yes please. Bye then.
Have I got any sunblock on?
Then don’t you think you should put some on?
Fine. Sunblock applied.
Okay then. Thank you. Bye bye then.
I’ve lost my place. Just as I pick it up another car rolls into the driveway. Crunching the stones. Doors slam. Dogs bark. Burglar alarm whines. Kids are still laughing. I want to climb the fence and ask them, sincerely, what the hell is so funny? But I’m not a grumpy old man, not yet, but soon. Then they’ll all be sorry. I take a deep breath. Peace and quiet. Sunshine and writing. That’s what it’s all about.
Bacon sandwich arrives. I guess I could take a break from doing nothing for an hour and a half. I munch my sandwich. It seems everyone else in the house wants to eat outside too. We chat. Laugh. Talk about going to the beach tomorrow. I shrug. I kinda wanted to get through some editing that weekend as I’d been putting it off. I’ll skip it, thanks.
The bacon brigade don’t leave. They sit and chat. I open my netbook and stare at the words. My enthusiasm has wilted somewhat but I push myself to revive it and tap away as the chatter bounces around the table. I can do it. I can block it all out no problem. Hey, this is working.
Burglar alarm whines.
Dogs bark, huff, howl and grunt.
Children laugh like hyenas.
An angry bee tries to invade my ear.
Someone starts sawing wood. Seriously! It’s the hottest day of the year and one of the neighbours thinks now is the time to start sawing random chunks of wood. And then the hammer comes out. Clonk. Clonk. Bang. Clonk. Bang. Bang. Next the drill. Whiiiiirrrrrr. WHIIIIIRRRRRRR!
I stifle an irritated smile.
I feel like I’ve been thrown into a Bugs Bunny cartoon, dressed in a conductors suit, tapping my baton against the stand ready to conduct the orchestra of neighbourhood noise.
One and two and one, two, three, four! Clash, bang, wallop, smash, hiss, woof, clonk, hum, whine , chatter – rinse and repeat until time comes to an end. I imagine the usual suspects from Loony Tunes holding instruments, but instead of playing them with style and grace, they’re bashing them on their heads or hitting each other with goofy smiles and dazed little birds swimming around their heads.
I’d been sat in the garden for two hours and as far as I can remember I’d managed to edit half a dozen lines and write a bunch of words that didn’t make any sense. Stephen King once said: “Write with the door closed, edit with the door open.” I’d like to add to that: “And never write in your back garden on a sunny day because the noise will drive you batshit crazy.”
Funny thing is we live out in the country. It’s a country village. Corn fields. Wide open spaces. Sunsets like you wouldn’t believe. Sat in the back garden on the hottest day of the year you’d think some sort of dimensional rift had opened up and sucked the entire street into the middle of a busy city.
With the patience of a monk I slowly closed the lid on my netbook.
I wanted peace and quiet, sunshine and words.
Words can wait.
I called my sister. Played with the dogs. Enjoyed the sunshine and good company.
Turns out that all those background noises fade away when you’re having fun.
English Summers are fickle and you have to grab the good times when you can.
Why waste them?
How’s that for a glorious deep blue summer sun sky?
Took this on Saturday 18th August, the hottest day of 2012, 32 degrees.
And no, it hasn’t been altered or mucked about with in Photoshop.
The sky really was that blue!