I’m reading The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicholson again this year and it’s even better the second time, especially as it is about the summer of 1911, exactly 100 years ago.
There were riots in August but they were because the dockers and the jam-makers were not paid a subsistence wage despite working ten hours a day, not because they were all on benefits but didn’t have flat screen TVs and the latest trainers. Royalty was becoming popular again as a new generation was stepping out of the mausoleum inhabited by the grandparents and side-stepping the adultery of the parents. It was a time of economic difficulty and the shadow of conflict was always present but there was a sense of making the best of what you have. The weather was news; each week a new record was broken, whether it be the hottest, the driest or the wettest. Rebellion meant wearing black to a ball but that, in its day, was shocking. We need a lot more than that to shock us these days. This book is, therefore, a touch of nostalgia but also a reminder of the things we have lost.
I remember thinking that 1988 was a perfect summer. It was hot. I felt that I could change the world because I had just read my first book of Rupert Brooke poetry. I thought 2006 was; we were in Greece and I sat by a random pool and read biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Nick Cave and Cass Elliot. Actually I think this is pretty much a perfect summer, too.