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06/19/2003 Archived Entry: "Summer"
One of the most difficult facts to appreciate is that, following this weekend, in the UK, the days will be growing noticeably shorter. Saturday, June 21 is the first day of our summer and is also the longest day of the year. Once it has passed, the days grow shorter and soon, we'll be grumbling about the onset of darkness as the nights get longer. Quite suddenly, it is dark far earlier than we realise.
Added to this, of course, is the fact that Tuesday, June 24, is midsummer-day and with that in mind, we can see the ‘official’ English summer is of very short duration. It's an old joke that the English summer is a mere six days long!
Tuesday, mid-summer day, is also the feast of St John the Baptist, and across the continent there are lots of weather sayings which relate to his special day. One is that if it rains on the eve of St John's Day, we should not expect a good crop of hazel nuts, while a German saying advises us that we should not pay too much attention to the crops before St John's Day. Even if they look good before June 24, they might not mature into anything worthwhile. What the old piece of wisdom is saying is that a lot can happen between now and the maturity of the crops.
Some ancient forecasters always said we should pray for rain before the feast of St John, whereas after his feast day, we got it anyway! Rain on June 24, however, heralds a wet harvest and also means the hazelnut crop and the corn will not be particularly good, although apples, pears and plums should not be too adversely affected.
In the north-east of England, it was always said you should mow your thistles before the feast of St John, the message being that if you failed to do so, they would seed to produce a huge crop of additional thistles. The old advice was "Cut them before St John, or you'll have two instead of one". There is even another old saying that countryfolk are wise to lay in a stock of fuel before the feast of St John, just in case the weather takes a real turn for the worse!
Personally, I think these somewhat gloomy predictions are not to be taken too seriously. What with the effects of global warning on climate change, we can only wait and see.