The moment summer ended

image

What
does summer mean to you? What time of the year is truly your time?
And the most important question of all: What’s next?

Summer
is most folks’ favourite time of the year, but it is most
definitely not my cup of coffee. Too hot, too bright, too much pollen
for hayfevery me. Nonetheless, if summer is your bag, drink deep of
its revivifying draft and enjoy it to its fullest. I’ll meet you
back in autumn when the heavy coats can come out and the hot coffee
tastes more welcoming than ever.

I
got to spend the first week of this month in Cornwall, in what felt
very much like the closing moments of summer. I had the clearest
sense of the seasons truly changing, and of autumn preparing to make
its welcome return.

My choices have always made sense to me

I
also had the privilege to read the most wonderful book while I was
away: Johnny Marr’s memoir Set The Boy Free. I loved this tome,
despite never having been any kind of a fan of Marr’s most famous
musical endeavour, The Smiths* (my addiction to music is such that I
will voraciously consume books about bands I don’t like or actively
dislike**).

It
was the most delightful surprise to discover that Marr as narrator is
the most positive, upbeat literary companion you could hope to meet.
Marr’s spirit shines through each page. He has been driven his
whole life by a clarity of thought about what he wants to achieve and
a confidence in the choices he takes to make things happen – even if
these choices might sometimes appear random, even to him. “My
choices have always made sense to me,” he writes.

The
best parts of the book are his tales of forming The Smiths, writing
their earliest songs, and feeling the joy of hurtling past career
milestone after career milestone. Marr was so clear in how he pursued
what he wanted that it sometimes felt almost preordained:

“[I]t
felt like I was living in a movie. I was imagining things and
scenarios for me and my band, and they were actually coming true.
[…] When the moment came to make my first record, it was like
stepping into destiny.”

I
love his point about the need to keep inspired, driven and motivated,
even if it requires frequent and fundamental reassessment of how you
approach what you are doing. He writes about the abrupt transition
from struggling band of total unknowns to being hailed as the next
big thing, which befell the Smiths while supporting – of all people –
The Sisters of Mercy***:

“I
missed how it had been when our backs were against the wall and so I
had to recalibrate a new attitude.”

Marr’s
positivity is truly infectious. Why shouldn’t we always be excited
about the next thing, about whatever surprises lie just around the
corner?

The precise moment summer ended

image

The
final night of our stay, my wife and I were gifted the most wonderful
sunset. The sun had hidden for most of our stay behind frequent cloud
and less frequent rain. But the sun finally came out in full for the
most perfect, the most beautiful of summer sunsets.

It
also felt to me like the exact moment that summer ended. The Atlantic
wind was – as someone significantly younger than me might get away
with saying – bracing “AF”. As the sun finally began to
disappear behind the clouds, the wind intensified, the temperature
plummeted. Summer at that moment seemed well and truly done.

Even
I felt a tinge of melancholy to see the summer go. But this was mixed
with joy that nature had shared such a wonderful spectacle with us,
such a parting gift as we move on into the next chapter.

Now.
As that great former incumbent of the White House Josiah Bartlet once
asked: What’s next?

FOOTNOTES

* Gentle
reader: Please permit me a musical confession. I’ve never liked The
Smiths. Way back in my sixth form days, those who were true music
fans seemed divided into two broad camps: Smiths types and Cure
types. I was and am most assuredly in the latter category.
Nonetheless, I got to hear probably every single Smiths song and
every Morrissey solo “joint” up to that point through my
Smiths-loving friends (even to the extent of being more well-informed
than I’d like to be of the then-raging debate as to whether
Morrissey really is singing “It was a good lay” at the end
of Suedehead. If you know the answer, please save yourself the bother
of sending it to me on a postcard). For reasons I still can’t
really fathom, I even accompanied my friends to see Morrissey live at
Wembley Arena when he was touring the execrable Kill Uncle album.
Potentially the most boring gig I’ve ever attended. I vividly
remember two very excited blokes in front of me who were waving
gladioli like crazy to Every Day Is Like Sunday turning round to ask
why I wasn’t enjoying myself. Then again, is being the most
miserable person at a Morrissey concert some kind of perverse badge
of honour?

** I
will, however, own to loving Electronic, Marr’s collaboration with
New Order’s Bernard Sumner. Get The Message is an all-time great
song for me.

*** Who
I really like! The Sisters were another very big band in my sixth
form, even if their faction was dwarfed by the Cure/Smiths “heads”. Here is their tremendous track Floorshow (listening to it again today after all these years, I notice for the first time just how wonderfully shameless they were in borrowing Lemmy’s bass sound here):

IMAGES

  • Pics on this page by @mjcarty, from my recent Cornwall holiday. The pic at the top is entitled Lone Surfer, and the one in the section on the sunset is entitled The Last Moment of Summer. If you would like to purchase a print of either of these, please let me know, and I will see what I can do.

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