The English summer may just have arrived here in my home town of Lewes, East Sussex. My garden, after some hefty summer pruning looked fine yesterday evening…..
…and it was still looking fine this morning. Today, we are told, it will be hot and sunny so I’m allowing myself to be lulled into summer thoughts.
I was more than encouraged to celebrate Summer on Saturday when I crossed the border between East and West Sussex, returning to the small seaside village, Angmering-On-Sea, where I spent the first ten years years of my life. We were marking a family birthday in the excellent restaurant, La Bella Vista, just a few hundred yards from my childhood home when it was called the Blue Peter Cafe. Childhood memories, well mine anyway, are always summer lit, so it was doubly nostalgic revisiting this wonderful stretch of coast after an absence of several decades.
I thought that I had imagined that the tide actually went out that far creating the moody open spaces that I recall so vividly from those days of freedom on the beach.
Even though the village has now lost its rural surroundings to a plague of new housing, the place itself has changed remarkably little.
It retains its atmosphere of the timeless summer days that I was lucky enough to spend there.
My brothers and I were virtually amphibious in those days.
It was, I hope, interesting to share some of those memories with my own children when we returned there on Saturday evening.
We walked down the road to the house where I grew up and, sadly, just missed the summer fete that was being held there that afternoon.
The flags were out for our visit to White Lodge, just across the road from the beach, now a residential home for the elderly.
It is, I’m sure a great place for those lucky residents but I was shocked that planning permission had been granted to “modernise” what had been an entirely art deco bungaloo that had once been featured in Ideal Home magazine in the 1930s. It looks as if all the deco features have been obliterated and they have even build a second floor to the building already big enough as a single storey six bedroomed house where I remember the sense of freedom with every room having doors that led into the garden.
I suppose I should not complain though, except for the loss to English architectural heritage as I had a charmed life there in that rambling house as some of these old photographs show.
Here I am, under the watchful eye of my great aunt, surrounded by some well remembered toys, the steam engine my father built, the tin knights’ fortress and that discarded scooter lying on the lawn.
I led a charmed life there, or so it seems enthroned here on a velvet cushion…
…or about to go out with my mother and now much missed elder brother Graham.
Here are the two of us in the garden with our father who painstakingly taught us how to ride our bicycles there.
I would never have guessed then that all these years later I would return to that house with my own sons. Summer days are meant to like this with enough languorous days to remember the past and to celebrate the present – in many ways the product of those early days spent in an idyllic world.