Shortening daysJun 24th, 2010 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
It happened again this year. Despite the earnest wishes expressed every year for more than 40 years, every year it happens and every year it’s a miserable thought – the days start to get shorter on 22nd June and two days later Midsummer’s Day is reached.
There is a vivid recollection of a lunchtime conversation at High Ham Primary School in 1969 or 1970.
“The weather”, I said, “it’s drizzling”.
The school dinner lady sat looking out from the dinner room, watching us through the double glass doors that opened onto the playground.
Her lunchtime task was to help serve the school dinners and to supervise playtime. Playtime was much easier if the children were all in the playground surrounded by the twelve foot high chain link fence. Wet days meant being inside and the problem of having to get out the box of games and jigsaws with which they would pass the time until afternoon classes started.
Drizzle was therefore grounds for contention. It meant that the forty children in the school could complain that it was wet and that they wanted to come in; it meant that the school dinner lady, who watched over the forty could say that it’s not raining and go away and play.
The conversation that lunchtime more than forty years ago wasn’t prompted by any desire to be inside, I had spent too many lunch hours making jigsaws that were maps of the British Isles or the United States (I always liked the Tennessee-shaped piece). Drizzle was not a cause for concern about getting wet; it was much more serious, it was a cause for angst!
I had read that day for the first time in my life, or at least for the first time that I can remember, that the day June 24th was Midsummer’s Day. It was Midsummer’s Day and school holidays were still three weeks away. Midsummer’s Day, to a boy of my age, meant that summer would be over before we even started our holidays. It was Midsummer’s Day and we were at school and it was raining- could the school dinner lady not sense the angst of a small boy?
It is Saint John the Baptist’s Day today, Midsummer’s Day, 24th June and the hills around Kilkenny sit beneath grey clouds and a thunderstorm would clear the air. The days are getting shorter again. The Earth rolls on through its seasons, despite the anxiety of a small boy that he might miss the summer and despite the wishes of his successor four decades later who still hopes vainly for a year that does not turn.