The arrival of spring, and then summer, has always meant a lot to me, but I’ve been thinking about it lots recently. Living by the sea it’s somehow easier to appreciate the passing of the seasons. Harsh winters of crashing waves and icy cold have to give way, sooner or later, to warm sunshine and long summer evenings.
And so, here we are. At that exciting time of year when summer is easing its way back into our lives. The last five months, mild as this winter has been, have held a routine of chilly mornings, constantly charging bike lights and warm evenings huddled in smoky pubs. (I do notice that the winter doesn’t fill me with the same gloom it used to – maybe I’m becoming fonder of the cosy pubs as I grow older…). Next we must re-learn our summer lifestyles; five months of winter is just long enough to forget the simple pleasures of evening beach barbecues and strolling around in shorts and t-shirts. Spring provides us with a chance to remind ourselves how we like to live when the sun shines.
Of course, the passing of the seasons has always been important to us as a society, especially in the days when the production of our food was dependent on it. That’s why festivals and celebrations have always marked their passage. From the elaborate festivities of the major religions to the simpler observances of druids and the like, we have always cared about the seasons, however we choose to explain them.
Personally, I like join a group of friends around the time of each equinox (spring and autumn) for our own little tradition:
– our Low Tide Bike Ride.
So when does spring really start? Depends who you ask. The vernal equinox (when the Earth is literally mid-way between its summer and winter positions) is reckoned by astronomers to be the real start of spring. Other folks will wait until our clocks go forward before they recognise the arrival of the new season. Other, more old-fashioned, souls are apparently intent on listening for cuckoos…
But I feel able to announce my own list of signs that winter has passed and spring is ushering in the new summer:
- The first time I am woken in the morning by the persuasive light from my window, rather than the nagging bleep of an alarm
- The first time I realise, having woken, that going for a quick ride/run/swim might be a really nice thing to to, rather than an eccentric act of winter bravery
- The first time I can leave work without having to switch on the bike lights
- The first time I notice myself sat on Brighton beach in the early evening, with groups of beer-supping friends scattered around the stony beach and the occasional hint of cannabis smoke carried by the sea breeze
- The first time I find myself getting cross with the amount of rubbish left on the beach each night
- The first time I notice with admiration how quickly Brighton’s litter pickers restore the beach each morning
- The first weekend evening I ride home past enormous traffic jams clogging every road out of Brighton, as Londoners return from their sunny day by the sea
Seeing as I have ticked off all seven of the above, I am utterly convinced that spring is now upon us. Next stop summer.
Now, where did I put that barbecue?