Friday, 11 March 2016

The sound of summer

Does summer have a sound?  Probably not exactly A sound, but as far as I am concerned there is one sound which, if heard early in the morning, always reminds me of summer.  I heard that sound this morning.

The first thing to enter my consciousness (after I had silenced the alarm clock) was the sound of a wood pigeon calling from the sycamore tree in a neighbour's garden.  I was instantly transported backwards in time about 60 years or so.  It was an August in one of the early years of what some optimist told us was to be the 'new Elizabethan age' for England.  (Whatever happened to that, I wonder?)  It was my very first week-long, summer camp with the Scouts.  We - about 24 or 30 boys plus one adult leader - set off by train from Gillingham (the one in Kent), crossed London by Underground with all our personal kit, the camping gear having been sent on beforehand.  We managed, all of us, to arrive at Paddington Station.

(The was no sign of the bear as he was still in darkest Peru.)

From here, we caught a train to Bath and changed to another, local train for Freshford.  From the village station we walked through the lanes to the farm that was to be the site of our camp.

It seemed like a journey to a foreign country for me.  We had left from a station built in brick with cement rendering, the standard method of construction in the Medway towns, in a train painted Southern Railway green.  At Paddington we entrained in maroon carriages and, on the journey, passed through station constructed from local stone with signs and lamp posts all painted in Great Western Railway maroon.  These were nothing like any buildings I had ever seen.

And at Freshford, the locals even spoke a foreign language!  I remember one old farm hand asking me, "Be 'ee gowin' to zee Gillingham play this zeason then?"  And he pronounced Gillingham with a hard G, as in the Dorset town, instead of the soft, Kentish G.

Every morning that week, when I woke in my sleeping bag constructed of two blankets and half a dozen blanket pins (oversize safety pins) (none of our families would have been able to afford proper sleeping bags) the sun was shining.  And every morning there were wood pigeons calling in the trees along the side of the field where we were camping.

And that is why, as far as I am concerned, the wood pigeon's call is the sound of summer.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Lovely memories BP. the call of a wood pigeon always take me back to my childhood too