July, and they just keep on comin' - garden roses, dahlias, cosmos, poppies... It's one of my favourite times of the year for flowers. And food, too; everything is fresh and fragrant and liberally available. Peaches and sweetpeas, a dime a dozen.
We have some old friends for Sunday lunch, an inaugural meal in our new base of operations. One of those lazy, hazy Sundays when you can spend all day outside and that day becomes evening without you even noticing.
I picked up vegetables at the farmers' market, a basketful of lemon basil, sorrel and multicoloured tomatoes from Wild Country Organics, a good stinky cheese and an armload of dahlias - not usually my first choice but these were so cheerful, and I fancied an old-school arrangement for the side table.
We had a very slow-cooked, flaky leg of lamb from our excellent butchers, a lovely family run place in St Margaret's where they have beautiful old tiles, and boxes of fresh honeycomb. The rub was prepared according to a recipe from the Pitt Cue cookbook, an aromatic blend of garlic, fennel, cumin and coriander seeds, oregano, brown sugar and surely an illegal quantity of salt. Roasted, ever so slightly charred butternut squash and sweet potato with almonds, tomato salad with all of those beefy tomatoes in balsamic, a good handful each of fresh green leaves.
Julia's Rose - a favourite from our cutting garden. She's such an exquisite rose, this one. Golden centre, layers of shapely petals in smoky shades of parchment, nude, creamy coffee, caramel and copper. All of my favourite flowers seem to defy being classed into one colour category. The Rosa glauca foliage, also, grey-green leaves tinged with plum, purple cane-like stems and globular red hips. Chocolate mint and white cornflowers, own-grown, with lysimachia and campanula from an Oxfordshire farm, and wild clematis vine foraged in Hampshire.
These are the days to savour the height of summer in all her silken, elderflower-swigging glory, before the dog days of August seep fast into the colour-shift of September. Days like these were made for sitting out till late, wearing sandals, and strolling by the river sweater-less on restless, still nights when it is too warm to sleep. Time to appreciate how fleeting these few rose-filled, slow-to-darken weeks are, in the middle of the year. For they will soon be gone; in their place later dawns and earlier dusks, and dreams on cold nights of the roses of summer.