The English summer scene is one that must inevitably touch the heart of everyone who has a feeling for courage and endurance. I have just driven quite a long way on a very rainy day, and on my journey have been offered vignettes of British fortitude that have made me glow with pride.
First of all there was the young man in the garden of Ye Olde Tea-Shoppe, sitting at a table from out whose bosom stemmed a pole on which, spread like an orange mushroom, there flaunted a giant, completely sodden, parasol. It had evidently been designed to make Warwickshire look like the French Riviera: it spoke of chocolat liegeoism and petits verresm and sun-drugged companions risen straight out of the sparkling Mediterranean.
But today there was no need for shade; only shelter from the rain, probably by a warming fire. Nevertheless, underneath this colorful fungus, whose orange fringes dripped water down his neck, the young man sat, quietly sipping an orange squash and patiently digesting a Chelsea bun. He sat there, leaning on the little iron table, quite serene, not asking for any pity, not even, apparently, aware of the incongruity of his circumstances, just accepting the wetness of everything with the insouciance of an English blackbird.
Stopping in Stratford-on-Avon to get tickets at the theater, I then came upon a whole group of jolly ladies, Women's Institute or Mothers' Union members, no doubt, who were flanking the riverside in a double row of deck chairs. It was still pouring, of course, and they were, to a woman, sheathed from head to foot in waterproof. But many of them, having dusted their luncheon crumbs from off their macs, were taking a postprandial nap, heads back, faces upturned to what Tennyson called "the useful trouble of the rain," while others chatted away and laughed. They had come to enjoy themselves at the Bard's birthplace, and a drop or two of water was not going to tarnish the brightness of their outing.
It is true that if the British depended on fine weather for their activities they would never do anything at all, and it is obvious that in planning for al fresco functions they must disregard the elements totally, entirely, and utterly. But it is when they are actually caught by the rain, in midstream, so to say, that they still manifest the phlegm for which they were once so famous. It is the unconcern, the nonchalance, they display when the heavens empty themselves upon their Open Air Theatricals, their Garden Fetes and Pony Shows and Flower Shows and Regattas and Sports Days that brings a lump to the throat.
Courage in the face of adversity is always moving, and as I sat, in the evening, watching, but failing to hear because of the thunder, some Madrical Singers, huddled together on a raft anchored out in the middle of a lake, I wept.