As a child the sound of summer rain outside the window early in the morning was never dispiriting. It just meant choosing different clothes before sliding down the banisters and bolting into the kitchen for a slice of freshly baked brown bread, farm butter and home-made jam - please not rhubarb.
Then the day would begin. Friends arriving at the back door, all set to go in black, shiny Wellingtons and mackintoshes, belted and brown. Outside the inevitable jump into a puddle, followed by several jumps into puddles, satisfying splashes and everyone wondering what we should play today ~ each looking to the other, hoping for an idea which would include making a camp, or finding someone else's pony and riding it bareback round a field ~ or just pretending, which was vague, but exciting in its vagueness. A compromise was often reached and a list made, before serious play could begin.
First of all the camp site had to be found. This was not difficult; it might be a disused barn full of mouldy hay, with tents made from bed covers pinched from the downstairs laundry cupboard. Permission was sought and duly given to take lunch outside ~ sandwiches of Marmite and tomatoes, ginger beer in bottles, a hard boiled egg, a packet of crisps with a twist of salt, all put in a basket covered with a tea towel.
Lunch having been donated, a plan had to be followed. We could not be ourselves, that would be dull. We had to be someone else. No one as I remember it, ever wanted to be Queen Guinevere, we all wanted to be King Arthur or Lancelot, or just a plain ordinary Knight in Battle. So, inevitably, uni-sex games were out, and Cavalry, or Invasion became the norm. Half the field would become enemy territory, and anyone who cried from being thrown into nettles was despised. Battle did stop for blood wounds but the stoppage was always accompanied by the entreaty not to tell how it happened as the wounded limped back into the house in search of a plaster.
Food eaten in a barn to the sound of rain tastes different from any other, and watching the rain from the top of a hay stack is oddly mesmerising, so much so that by the afternoon games never quite assumed the same zest. Lemon sherberts and bulls-eyes were sucked long and hard, and competitions as to who could make theirs last longest, meant that the day never seemed to have enough hours.
Parting at the back door, saying goodbye to friends with knees rubbed green from dock leaves ministered to soothe the multitude of nettle stings, brought about a special sort of regret. They might not come back tomorrow, they might be going abroad, where it seemed it never, ever rained. Or their parents might not let them come again, or worse ~ their mothers might not like your mother.
As I write a long hot and dry spell is finally over, the countryside is bright again from the summer rain and the grass once more green and verdant, and when walking in the garden I was stung by a nettle which I rubbed at once with a large dock leaf. As I did I heard laughing voices and someone wondering if I would be allowed out today?' I hope I will be.