Sweet comfort in the sweltering heat

By Martin Kirby

What more delicious comfort can there be to sweltering temperatures than succulence and spring water? Scything eye-height fennel (checking carefully for swallowtail caterpillars first, of course) is a sticky summer agitator of brow and grumbling back. But we have the soothers of cool water and – mmmmmm - fresh figs. You may already know that I, most unwisely, cannot get enough of these purple tear-drops of yumminess, best devoured while perched on the balsa wall in the ochre light, grubby feet immersed, watching the martins and swallows skim and swirl in chattering delight. The robust fennel continues to spread, pleasingly, for we rejoice in the company of the butterflies. But, come July, when these perennial herbs that crowd the house begin to steal the view we carefully curl the blade around the fanning stalks, grasp and chop. I was busy reaping a line that was overshadowing the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers when I suddenly had company; a noisy sparrow fledgling on my head. She moved, eventually, to my shoulder, was coaxed onto fingers and then into a quince tree. Maybe she could scent sweet figs. Maybe we had met before, because we are constantly releasing young from the chicken run netting at feeding time. How are the sparrows faring in your part of the world? We continue to hear sad stories of decline around the world.


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