The swallows are here, and though the weather’s uncertain, at least it’s real summer. John Clare’s birthday falls in July, and we like to celebrate with dinner outside, eating from the dinner service with inscriptions from his Shepherds Calendar. The July bowl shows Clare’s characteristic quirky spelling and punctuation, and is decorated with jasmine, honeysuckle, evening primrose and peas, in honour of a fragrant evening in the garden.
Most summer evenings when we sit out, we’re treated to a dazzling display of aeronautics from our local swifts, and one of the great joys of hanging out by the summer river has always been the swallows doing their thing.
Swallows on the Thames is a one-elephant book, made from a single sheet of handmade paper, painted, torn and folded into a sequence of pages. The whole sheet looks like this:
and the beautiful cool summery text by Matthew Arnold winds with the flow of the river:
In my boat I lie,
Moor’d to the cool bank in the summer heats,
‘Mid wide grass meadows which the sunshine fills
Where black-winged swallows haunt the glittering Thames
I’ll be showing this artist’s book in an exhibition this winter in a riverside gallery in London, to remind us of the summer river in those December days. More details of this exhibition next month, when I’ll also be showing some more of my current series of contemporary illuminated manuscripts on the theme of the dance of the seasons and the passing year.
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