Flaming June


"It's a hot day. Tempers are bound to fray!” That’s what John Shuttleworth said (“The Shuttleworths Vol. 3”, track 6: “Midsummer Madras”) and this fine spell of summer sunshine seems to be proving him right. Driving down the flyover into town, it’s not just the usual suspects - taxi drivers and white van man - weaving their way through the traffic, sweating and swearing through their open windows: ordinary motorists are having hissy fits, leaning on their horns and gesticulating in unseemly fashion for no real reason. 

I’m happy; but then, I’m doing the backing vocals to the Dictators’ “Let’s Twist”, so it’s not surprising. 

I turn down the sound system as I enter the car park: I want to be able hear anyone accelerating into a handbrake turn well before they drift around the corner and into me.

Inside, it’s cooler, and even though it’s still early, it’s crowded. Most customers appear to be on their way to the beach or to a barbecue, to judge by their clothing and the contents of their trolleys. All that’s missing are the beach-ready bodies. Instead we have acres of unnecessary flesh, much of it covered with tattoos of surpassing ugliness.

Suddenly, I’m in small town America, in the early twentieth century, and the carnival is in town; in a moment of weakness, I’ve wandered into the freak show. Can such things really be? This segues into the mall scenes from “Dawn Of The Dead”, and then I remember that I’m supposed to be shopping and I’ve got to get back in time to take Christopher for a walk on the moors, before it gets too hot for him. I hurry along.

As I wait in line at the till, I scan the faces of my fellow shoppers: for all their festive attire, folk don’t look as though they’re expecting a good time today. There’s a vicious edge to the scolding of the small children sitting squawking in the shopping trolleys. Frustrated and fractious, they screw up their faces and scream back at their parents/guardians/and/or/significant others. It’s hard to tell how they’re all related. Older folk suffer in silence, with lowered eyes and soured expressions. Perhaps they’ve been reading the headlines.

Firefighters tackle moorland blazes as major incident declared. 

Lettuce shortages and hosepipe ban as heatwave continues.

First the heatwave now a storm weather warning.

How to exercise in a heatwave.

19 tips to stay cool in the heatwave.

How the heatwave helped us fall in love with the garden day bed.

Britain’s topsy-turvy weather damages churches as more than ever need emergency cash.

Gritters sent out as heatwave melts Britain’s roads and hosepipe ban set to come into force.

How to beat the World Cup fizzy beer shortage? Drink more real ale.

Those are from the first few pages of just one newspaper. That last suggestion may explain why the sirens are wailing all afternoon, as I perspire through the next stage of my construction plan, out on the allotment. I feel sorry that not everyone is enjoying this flaming June as much as I am. But tempers are bound to fray, in a fallen world. Even the plumber who came earlier in the afternoon was bemoaning the warm weather and the water shortage. He’d been up to Hurstwood reservoir to check the levels, he said, and then he’d had a row with a man on Todmorden Road: he’d told him off for watering his hydrangeas with a hosepipe. 

Suddenly, my neighbour appears, looking over the fence and eyeing me with disapproval. She suggests that I put my shirt back on, on the grounds that it’s hot and I might get burnt. I suggest that she’s just jealous and I flex my biceps. She beats a hasty retreat. 

There go the sirens again.

Up on the moors in the morning, my short walk with Christopher led us past several small bridges over dried-up runnels and rivulets. At each one, he stopped and peered down anxiously. “No water coming through!” I tried to draw his attention to the sweep of the distant hills, and to the butterflies hovering over the buttercups and clover. I told him to listen out for the sound of the grasshoppers, seated unseen in the long fronds of furred grasses by the side of the path. No, he wasn’t interested: he had to check each one of those little streams to see whether there was any water, anywhere. Again and again: “Nothing coming through!” 

Then we reached the stile. I lifted him over and back onto the main path. We walked along past tall, purple thistles, reeds, and lush clumps of rank grass. “Bit faster!” The breeze had begun to blow over the upland straight. No little bridges here. “A bit faster!” I twanged the wire fence with my walking stick and the reverberations amused him no end. “A bit faster!” I had to lengthen my stride to keep up with him, and he smiled and ran on, happy at last, under the cloudless blue sky of this fine and flaming June.


Well, if we ever end up with a serious water shortage, then as the ground cracks and dries it will at least give greater immediacy to the words of Psalm one concerning the man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD”. The imagery there isn’t usually as vivid for those of us who enjoy a cool, damp climate as it would have been for its original audience. If you’re feeling hot, bothered and harassed as flaming June becomes fiery July, perhaps you ought to turn to it now.

Take your time, and read it through. Then think it through, little by little, bearing in mind that Christian meditation is no mere passive withdrawal from outside influences, but rather an active involvement in the living and life-giving word of God. Matthew Henry comments as follows.

To meditate in God's word, is to discourse with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it, with close application of mind and fixedness of thought. We must have constant regard to the word of God, as the rule of our actions, and the spring of our comforts; and have it in our thoughts night and day. For this purpose no time is amiss.