Friday, 25 June 2010

Flaming June

Will there ever be such  summers again as the ones we knew when we were small?

What summers they were, summers that never ended, stretched out in the shimmering haze of the endless sky, summers when even the bees faded to the drowsiest hum, hardly able to lift their heavy load of pollen to tumble drunkenly  amongst the blooms in the golden gorse on the railway embankment . The games we played there or in  fragrant swathes of camomile on the banks of the stream hardly mattered, we were soon  overcome by the heat and lay in the tall grass, talking and boasting, inventing tall tales, as only innocent children will. And when we had even tired of that, we just lay back and watched bugs and beetles crawl up the grass stem next to our face, the insects, like us, wanting to get out of the shadows, to bask in the sun.

We had been sent to collect the flowers of the camomile plant, a herb useful in many ways. The flower heads were dried in the attic, on wooden boards, which, come autumn, would hold apples and pears for winter storage. The pleasant smell quickly became all-pervasive, an integral part of home.

Camomile was used as a panacea for all ills as well as a herbal tea. For colds and coughs, flu and fevers, via tummy aches, constipation and haemorrhoids, to inflammations, infections, as a diuretic and 'blood cleanser' as well as a refreshing drink, camomile tinctures, mixed with grease as a cream and in sachets for hot and cold compresses, were an absolute necessity in the German housewife's household pharmacopeia.

The Saints help the child who came home without its bag, stitched together from an old cotton tea cloth, filled with the heads of camomile plants. Cheating was not allowed, stems were not wanted. We were sent out to gather the herb for weeks, on as many sunny days as there were, from the end of June to the middle of July, the time of ripening. At weekends the adults came too, it was classified as a family outing  for a useful purpose. What is known as 'quality time' nowadays, I suppose.

We were out for many hours on our own, picking not just the herb, but also poppies, cornflowers and daisies. By the time we arrived home,  the bunches of flowers wilted, we children were happily tired out and intoxicated with freedom and summer.


  1. Your post has brought back lovely childhood memories. When I was a child we used to collect St Johns Wort . Left in the sun a jar topped with olive oil it turns the oil amber red and can be used for all sorts of ailments, beginning from sunburn ending with sore nipples from breastfeeding. The pastures where we collected it, have all gone but to my delight I found some in an unkempt corner in my garden. Cultivating it in the rose bed didn't go down too well with OH but that is where it grows best and I can be quite stubborn when it comes to defending this family tradition. This year vegetation is so late I didn't see a single flower on Saint Johns day (24.6.) In Kindergarten my daughter was the only child to recognise the plant. Sad really, when you think how many mums take it for post Natal depression....

  2. That is beautiful, Friko! We have just put our house on the market. The lovely summers, but its isolation was awful. I don't know what I was thinking. I hope I can find a good nest nearer to kids.

  3. Two evenings ago I showered and sat outdoors in the full moon light and watched the lightning bugs. That gave me the same magical feeling as I had then...the scents and the feeling of the air on my skin...

  4. My favorite line:
    even the bees faded to the drowsiest hum, hardly able to lift their heavy load of pollen to tumble drunkenly amongst the blooms in the golden gorse on the railway embankment.
    Friko, parents in those days were brilliant, getting the kids out of the house with a job to do most of the summer. Can you imagine what family and children's services would say now? neglect and abuse!

  5. sigh
    thank you so very much for taking me far back in time and space. it was usually during summer that i picked such flowers, counting them each, for hours, sometimes falling asleep on the grass ...
    with regard to the wine of your last entry, can only agree with you, that it surely is worth to "stand ones ground" - a way too long story connected to it. wishing you a wonderful start into the weekend of yours.

  6. You bring so many of the memories of a childhood summer flooding back, Friko. It seemed as if time would never run out, and, as you say, the sense of freedom was intoxicating. Not sure our little ones get to experience that kind of freedom these days. Such a shame.

  7. Yes memories of childhood summers in my mind include lying in the grass picking daisies and making daisy chains. We had a yard filled with fruit trees and so we helped picked egg plums, apples pears and raspberries in our backyard. On camping trips we were sent to pick blackberries that grew everywhere. How delicious they were. I enjoyed your memories Friko.

  8. While I never collected the flowers of chamomile, my summers, in retrospect, seem as endless and sunny as yours were. Is there anywhere left where children have that sort of experience?

  9. In a way, those summers never left...they were just preciously stored in your memory banks.

  10. Oh Friko, you have such a way of transporting me to those places you visit in your memory. Lovely, graceful, evocative writing. And the thing of it is, these are not just backward-looking sentimental snapshots, but an introduction to things I never knew, never thought about, never imagined.

    Just beautiful.

    (I was going to say, these are historical things....but I thought you might hit me)

  11. Beautiful writing, Friko! Perhaps our childhood summers seemed so endless because they were such a large fraction of our experience.

    I harvested a bit of chamomile last week and the flowers are drying in my kitchen -- heavenly smell.

  12. What a beautiful writer you are Friko. Loved it. It also brought back childhood memories of the excitment collecting the still warm eggs, lying in the grass looking for 4 leaf clovers, picking and eating raspberries til totally satiated, swimming in the local pool day after day after day................see what you've started.

  13. friko thankyou so much for this intoxicatingly rich and soft unfolding of a summer memory. they are different as we get older. they are different as we experience all things without innocence. but here you have this carefully wrapped in the cupboard of your remembering. waiting for you to look any time you wish. lucky you. steven

  14. Lovely.

    Thank you for bringing me along!

    Aloha from Hawaii

    Comfort Spiral

  15. Reminds me of Laurie Lee, the way you write.

  16. Ivy - ist das Johanniskraut? hast du gesehen, dass Eva vor kurzem gepostet hat?

    Jenn Jilks - I hope you won't regret that. Actually, we are debating whether to start thinking of downsizing. It's 'thinking' so far.

    June - we should all take the time to do that, re-connect with feelings, re-connect with us in relation to nature.

    marciamayo - I don't know what happened to life, parents and children. Our biggest problem is fear, I believe. It's sad. So much life is simply no longer experienced.

    robert - wonderful childhood memories are worth keeping.
    thank you for your good wishes.

    Bonnie - I only ever see children accompanied by troops of mothers, even here in our safe little rural world, where children could have such fun with the stream, the fields and meadows which are totally safe.

    Sheila - thank you; your memories sound something like mine; I always think we had so much more than the children today, who have everything that money can buy except the freedom to use their imagination.

  17. Pondside - I don't think there is. Why did we help to change the world to the extent it has; why did we help to turn everything to an examination of profit, to the pursuit of achievements and when did we let let fear take over as our main pre-occupation?

    Christopher - thank you, what a lovely thing to say. I am very grateful.

    Deborah - thanks ever so, Deborah, I knew I could rely on you!
    " . . . not just backward-looking sentimental snapshots . . ."
    And to top it all ". . . these historical things . . ."
    Sentimental and historical, praise indeed!

    Vicki Lane - probably true; a prosaic explanation, but probably fact.
    Time went so slowly and there weren't that many years in our storage boxes to clutter up the memory.

    maggie - I hope you enjoy what the train of thought brought up. It's fun going down memory lane.

    steven - but we all have that, surely. Perhaps there are children whose trip down memory lane is painful because childhood was an unhappy place, but these tiny, wholly unimportant, memories are surely universal? How sad the opposite would be.

    Cloudia - You are very welcome.

    Fran - I hope that is a compliment, Fran. I love Laurie Lee, maybe not everybody does.

  18. Clambering up and down the cliff path after lunch every summer in Ireland so that we could swim in a little cove . Filling clanking buckets with blackberries on our way back to Granny's where we'd have boiled eggs , soldiers and seed cake every afternoon . Reading in bed till my book would be confiscated by a passing adult on their way to bed . Thinking that this year summer would last for ever .....

  19. You have delightful children memories. It must have been nice where you were. My memories are different.

  20. I remember summers. We would leave in the morning, sometimes popping back in for lunch and then out again. gone all day exploring woods and bayou only needing to be back by dinnertime.

  21. Du wiedergibst uns deine Kindheitserinnerungen so schön... damals lernte man ohne Bücher, Botanik und homöophatische Behandlungen gleichzeitig.
    Heutzutage, leider, leiden sehr viele Leute unter Pollen und Gras Allergien und deshalb verpassen so viele Kinder einmalige Erlebnisse in der Natur.
    Was ich in den jetzigen Sommernächten sooo vermisse, sind die Glühwürmchen, sie haben mich immer so fasziniert.
    Deine Erzählung hat in mir den Wunsch erweckt, meine Bücher "Das Tagebuch von Edith Holden" und Dr. Edward Bach "Bach Blüten", zu holen und
    darin wieder zu lesen. Danke.

  22. I never experienced freedom like that as a child. How lucky you are to have such memories, and to be able to write about them so graphically.

  23. Just a quick response to your response...I never thought you were being serious and I was in no way offended. I usually get sarcasm...but I often wonder why people do not get mine? (Ooooo. my word verification is doome?)

  24. I had these summers too, let out in the morning and gone all day, wandering about with my brother and a friend with a battered old army rucksack full of sandwiches and orange squash. I hope I can help my grandchildren to have some of the same. I am sure this is history to many but I am not prepared to say it doesn't matter.

  25. S&S - yes, yes, yes - how fortunate we were.

    Vagabonde - Perhaps you will tell us?

    ellen abbott - why oh why can children today not have this freedom?

    Maria Angela - Ich hoffe, sie bringen Erinnerungen zurueck und machen dir Freude

    Jinksy - thank you Jinksy; it never mattered that times were hard, we simply didn't know. I am sorry those are not memories you can share.

    Tabor - thanks, I am very relieved.

    elizabethm - it would be wonderful if there were still children willing to enjoy such freedoms. It seems to me that the innocent entertainments of the 'historical' sort cannot compete with their digitally enhanced world.

  26. Friko - I think the problem is not with the children, whom we find very ready to take their chance of freedom, but with the parents and the whole culture of steering clear of risk of any kind. I might blog about it!


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