Summer land people

No-one is certain of the origin of the county name of Somerset. It seems old English, perhaps meaning the people who lived around Somerton. The meaning of Somerton is equally uncertain, perhaps the summer farmstead. Convention that the county name means the summer lands or people seems reasonable. In centuries past, in wintertime, much of the land was under water (and, if you live on the Levels, much of the land may still be under water at times). Perhaps it was the dampness of the place that tempered the weather: with the odd exception, never very hot in summer; and, with the even odder exception, never very cold in winter.

Perhaps it was the temperate climate that brought an even mood. No-one became too excited about summer, and no-one became too gloomy about winter. The turning of the days and the darkness again advancing was not a problem in primary school days. If the weather stayed dry, then there were opportunities to be enjoyed outside on every day of the year.¬†For a schoolboy who had received a new bicycle in the summer of 1968, and who had been delighted to have dynamo-driven lights fitted to it for his eighth birthday that October, the roads and laneways of our village were a year round opportunity for reckless cycling. Whether it was January or July, the only wish was that it wouldn’t rain.

Perhaps it was being part of a farming community, but there was never a sense of normal life closing down for the winter. Farm work carried on throughout the year, (some farmers milked cows throughout the year, rather than drying them off during the winter, in order to ensure a regular milk cheque) – and if the farmers were busy, then there seemed little reason why other people should not be so.

Perhaps it was living at a remove from the seaside, where there was definitely an open season and a closed season; perhaps it was the fact that we took part in no activities that depended on daylight or warmth; but it is hard to remember there being much sense of life being seasonal. There was certainly not a question of a change of wardrobe between winter and summer. Summer was recognised by not wearing a pullover with the shirt and trousers that would be worn for the rest of the year.

Perhaps summer was more a state of mind than a meteorological reality, but summer in those times seemed something of infinite flexibility.





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