It’s Oh, To Be Out Of England–Now That Spring Is Here! by Richard King

Story type: Essay

I don’t know if you, fair reader, find that in the spring your fancy turns to thoughts of love–I know mine doesn’t! On the contrary, it turns to thoughts of sulphur tablets and camomile tea and other sickly or disagreeable circumventions of the “creakiness” of the human body. For among the things I could teach Nature is that, when she made man, she did not permit him to “flower” in the spring and start each year with something at least resembling his pristine vigour–if he ever had any. But, whereas the spring gives a new glory to birds, and trees, and plants, she only gives to us–built in the image of God–spots, a disordered liver, and a muddy complexion. It seems a piece of gross mismanagement, doesn’t it? It would be so delightful if, once a year, we were filled with extra energy; if our hair sprouted once more in the colour with which we were born; if the old skin shed itself and a new one came on so beautiful as to ruin the business of all the “Mrs. Pomeroys” of this world. But Nature seems, once having made us, to leave us severely alone; to let us wither on our stalks, as it were, until we drop off them and are swept away into the dustbin of the worms and weeds. The mind is a far kinder ally. Oh, no; say what you will in the praise of spring, to all those who, as it were, have commenced the “bulge” of anno domini, it is a very trying season. Besides–here in England anyway–it is as uncertain as a flirt. Sometimes it suddenly comes upon us in the early days of March or lets mid-winter pay us a visit in the lengthening days of May. One never quite knows what spring is going to do. One never knows what kind of clothes to wear to please it. So often one sallies forth arrayed in winter underwear, because the morning awoke so coldly, only to spend the rest of the day eating ices to keep the body calm and cool. Or, again, the spring morning greets us with the warmth of an August day; we jump up gaily, deck ourselves out in muslin, sally forth, take a sudden “chill,” and spend the rest of the week in bed!

One is always either too hot or too cold. It is the season of the unaccountable draught. True, it often turns the fancy towards sweet thoughts of love–but the fancy usually ends with an influenza cold through indulging in sentimental dalliance upon the grass. On the whole, I always think that spring in England is nicer to sing about than experience. It is delightful as a season of “promise”–but, like humanity, it often treats its promises like pie-crusts. Still, it is spring, and–although the body rarely recognises the fact except to ruin by biliousness the romance which is surging in its heart–summer is, as it were, knocking at the door. And from June to mid-July–that surely is the glory of the year! After July, summer becomes a little dusty at the hem. Still, dusty, or even dirty, it makes life worth living. Nevertheless, I only wish that it were greedier and stole three months away from winter. For winter is too long, and spring is too uncertain, and autumn too full of “Farewell.”

But summer never palls. And we have five summers to make up for, haven’t we? For no one could really enjoy anything during the war except the war news–when it was favourable. But now we can–well, if not enjoy ourselves, at least lie back, just whispering to ourselves that, when the sun shines the world is a lovely place, and, so far as England is concerned, there is at any rate a kind of camouflaged peace. And so we have to be very very old if we cannot feel in our hearts a breath of youth and spring. After all, when the sun shines, we are, or feel we are, of any age–or of no age whatever. And if we cannot burst into flower like the roses, we can at least enjoy the beauty of the rose when it blooms–which other roses cannot do. Thus, with a few small mercies, life is very good when the sun shines, isn’t it?

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