Cornwall has turned sepia, or maybe even paler. As we move past the solstice into the second half of the year, and bake in hot sunshine, the light starts to change. The sunsets in solstice week seem often to be red and fiery, colouring the entire sky and sea orange and pink, but this year, the high pressure sitting over us has given days and possibly weeks of stunning sunsets and clear hot days.
The hashtag #kernowfornia has never seemed so appropriate, or maybe it should be something Mediterranean related instead. The blue skies against dusty fields and calm clear waters make every day down here seem like a perfect holiday. The farmers are no doubt crying out for rain but it has been a rare treat to leave the house for days on end without a cardigan and to have had only one beach yoga class in maybe the last eight cancelled due to sea mist.
Everywhere verges and gardens and fields have been cut back, exposing brown stubble. The pink flowers have mostly faded from the hedgerows round North Cornwall now, leaving brown grasses and seed heads. The long hot days have done the rest and everything seems faded in the bright sunshine, bleached and sepia tinted, like an old postcard.
Driving through the country lanes makes me think of Peter Lanyon. Referred to as “the leading exponent of abstract expressionism in Britain in the 1950s” by the Tate, his work remade “the tradition of landscape painting, using landscape and places to express ideas about states of being and the human condition”. A good deal of his Cornish abstract work was inspired by the flights he took in his glider. I think of how the patchwork of lanes and fields, hedges and gardens must look like from above, and see where West Penwith must have gathered seeds.
July always has the ultimate end of term feeling. A lot of my lasts took place in July, most recently our last weeks in London before we moved to Cornwall last summer. This year is no different and there are sports days and assemblies and final parent/teacher meetings before we drift towards that long six weeks which I looked forward all year to as a child and as a parent I wonder what on earth we will eat for 30 different lunches and what we should spend our time doing. I’m already planning some activities and here are some of my previous school holiday ideas!
Things to do in July (in Cornwall but adaptable to where you are)
Always my top outdoor July activity, although this heat means I think that the strawbs are almost over. We went last year on 8 July to the same farm in St Endellion and this year on the 4th and the plants were noticeably riper this year! A few weeks ago I made ice cream and then made 10 leftover egg whites in a several dozen meringues, so we have easy Eton mess every time we collect strawberries. Buster loves them so much it is hard to stop him stuffing them into his mouth straight from the plants but I figure that kind of picking is written into the PYO costs.
Wash winter woollens
A slightly random one but I like to make the most of hot drying weather, which it looks like we’re set to see for at least another week, to hand wash and dry all my winter clothes, storing them away in moth proof boxes for the winter. Likewise, I try and clean and reheel boots (or discard), winter handbags and dry clean my wool coat. Those crisp autumn mornings are still a way off yet but I like to make sure that when I need those cardigans I’m not having to fish them out of the laundry hamper…
Kids at school? Sort next year’s uniform & get a diary
Apologies if not relevant to you, but it’s something that I have started trying to do ahead of the summer holidays. All the school uniform starts coming into the shops in July and there are often offers, so I try and work out what I need and get buying in July, so we can forget about school until the very end of August. This is something I do every holiday and half term as well, but I try to get all the washing done and put away so that there is no mad rush on the last evening or first morning to try and find everything.
This year, I’m experimenting with a new kind of organisation. I’ve bought an academic diary (I chose this one from Mum’s Office) and I opted for bright yellow in an effort not to lose it. I am fed up with feeling like I am bearing the mental load of who needs what kit on which days, when the assemblies are, when the parents evenings are and so on, and I am also fed up of having the argument about whether or not I do bear more of the mental load. So, in an effort to combat this, the book will take the mental strain. When info comes in, I am scanning it on my phone using the Dropbox app to a shared folder and entering the details into the yellow book. That way both of us can do this, both of us can enter stuff in the book, and neither of us needs remember it. At least, that’s the plan.
Go to a carnival
July seems to mark the start of Cornwall’s carnival season and most towns or villages have their own scheduled for a summer weekend, right the way through until October. We have yet to take part in our village one but we are busy making costumes for both kids to join their school floats and I believe the after parties are supposed to be a lot of fun. If you’re on holiday down here it might be worth having a look to see what is on!
(see also church fetes, summer fetes, car boot sales and so on – there seems to be something on in every village every week at the moment!)
Switch off / be more present
I am listening to an interesting podcast on health – it is about three hours long so I am gradually working through it! One of the ideas mentioned was in relation to mental gears and the fact that so many of us spend so much time occupying the middle mental gear – not high pressured highly functioning space nor a low switched off state, but a sort of permanently occupied multitasking space, which is not good for us in so many ways. I am working harder at spending time just doing one thing. Be that gardening, or watching tennis, but do that and only that. The other thing I am trying to do is not scroll mindlessly though social media whilst doing something boring, like queuing or waiting for someone, but spending that time letting my brain idle and instead people watching or day dreaming. Seems so decadent after years of cramming in as much as possible all of the time, but I am hoping it might give me the mindspace to work out things.
As part of this switch off goal, I also think a goal of July should be to book a few days off. Whether it is a holiday here or somewhere else, or staying at home but not working, I think we all need some time off from the daily grind and mental load of being an adult in (part) charge of a household. Also, I read that anticipation is all part of the enjoyment of a holiday, so knowing it is coming and planning for it and looking forward to it is part of what makes a bit of time out so special.
Mkae the most of the heatwave and go camping this weekend. You don’t need to go far and we’ve found plenty of options where you can rent a tent as well so you don’t have to buy your own if you don’t think you’ll use it, or have space to dry it again afterwards (even dew can make it wet and it needs to be bone dry before it is put away).
I wrote about our first time camping earlier this summer, which was greatly improved after Regatta kindly sent us roll mats and sleeping bags for the kids and a camping stove and kettle. We went back to Botelet and again stayed in the bell tent but this time the packing was much easier without mattresses and duvets and it was almost joyful being able to make a hot water bottle and a fresh cup of coffee in the morning.
These mats are self-inflating and we have since used them for sleepovers at both sets of grandparent’s houses and for the kids to sleep on the floor of our hotel room when we went to a wedding. I chose sleeping bags which were not shaped and which had a soft brushed cotton lining and the kids use sheet sleeping bags, so they are comfortable and cosy and I would say that this is the single thing which has made sleepovers and camping much easier and improved. Thanks Regatta!
Go wild swimming / get out on the water
I need to get some kind of waterproof case for my phone/camera so I can take some photos – the only one I have is this screen shot from Instagram from Polzeath Ladies Surf Club! We’ve been enjoying sea swimming and paddle boarding, spending time together after school. So peaceful and relaxing and in this lovely hot weather we’ve been able to ditch boots and in some cases even wetsuits…
Have a drink outside /on the beach
On Monday I sat outside on the beach after surf club with some of the other girls until 10pm having a little glass of wine together and just shooting the breeze. So peaceful, so relaxing. It doesn’t need to be a beach, although that of course is lovely. It could be the park, your garden, your office roof space, wherever you can make the most of the long light evenings. Even for 10 minutes with a cup of tea, totally worth it!
Anything else I’ve missed? What are you up to in July?
*I chose the camping gear we needed which we were kindly sent by Regatta – all opinions my own, obviously.