Town mouse visits Dartmoor

A week ago, one felt grateful for any single ray of sunshine that managed to penetrate the cloud bank. Now, this household has declared it to be a basil summer. That’s a summer when it’s worth planting basil on the roof terrace.

A tiny space, created from a former bathroom, the terrace reaches Moroccan temperatures when the sun is out. The basil puts aside the youthful tenderness of its supermarket iteration and becomes almost brutish. It’s too coarse for a salad, but you can gather armfuls to make pesto. We haven’t done this for some years-basil doesn’t like the rain.

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On Sunday, I gave a talk, at a respectable literary festival, in shorts. Admittedly, the place where this took place was Dartington, in Devon, famous-in the days of the school-for liberal attitudes. What a dream of a place it is. Golden light sculpted the terraces of the garden, and one heard of people swimming in the River Dart. Dartmoor stone can look forbidding beneath louring skies, but, warmed by the sun and softened by foliage, the grey buildings took on an unexpected charm.

From the deckchairs on the lawn came the sound of applauding crowds where Wimbledon was on people’s iPads. Fortunately, the men’s final ended just before my talk or I might not have had much of an audience.

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