Three weeks of almost unbroken sunshine and we almost forget that we live in Waterland and that there has been no decent weather to speak of for almost two years. Until the weekend when it changed back to the same old, same old.
Still, those three weeks were quite wonderful, especially for sun-worshippers like me, although it did require a good deal of work juggling and there was a prolonged absence of blogging, to ensure maximum outdoors time. But worth it because we never quite know when Helios will favour us again.
There has been much singing (and much rehearsing too) for the Exe Valley Voices, which included taking part with 1000 other singers in Sing for Water West in Bristol on a suitably hot day. It was such an uplifting event, which - when everyone's sponsorship money and donations from the audience have been counted - will have raised more than £50,000 for WaterAid projects in the Afram plains region of Ghana. And it provided an opportunity to meet up with several friends, who were singing with choirs from Somerset and Gloucestershire. A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me and in case you would like to know what we sounded like, there is a batch of videos here, the first of which includes two of my favourite songs from the day, Carly Simon's Let the River Run and a Georgian song, Shen Xar Venaxi.
Two days later, we were singing with more lovely people, including choirs from local schools, at the Two Rivers Festival in Tiverton, which marked the official launch of the Tiverton Co-operative Learning Partnership. Tiverton High School made a video of the event and we (as in some of the choir members) are in there somewhere . . . well, half way through and right at the end and very briefly - a fragment of a Xhosa song from South Africa, O Li Lizela.
Last week, we held our annual summer party on a farm in a steeply wooded coombe, just a mile or so from my village. We ate, drank and sang our way into the night, gathered round a fire on a balmy evening, under the stars and an enormous, pale yellow moon. Who needs nightingales in Berkeley Square? Take it from me, there was magic abroad in the air in deepest Devon that night.
And on Friday evening, three of us joined another of Claire Anstee's Devon-based choirs, the Withycombe Warblers, as well as the Woodbury Community Choir, in Exmouth, to take part in a fundraising concert for Exmouth and Lympstone Hospiscare. The town sits between the Exe estuary and the South Devon coast so our voices were accompanied by the cries of seagulls . . .
There is, of course, the other happy aspect of choir life, which is the social side. Lasting friendships are formed and we all enjoy each other's company. Earlier in the month, a group of us trooped off to the second night of the Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival. I have always wanted to be wafted skywards in one of these but, at £145 per person per flight, we decided to stay where we were and simply watch. There is much to be said for the quiet contemplation of balloons drifting up and away into a still sunlit evening sky.
And so to Saturday, when one of the tenors celebrated her 80th birthday with a marvellous party, darlings! Forget any stereotypical notions of what an 80-year-old woman should look like and how she should behave. She is truly amazing, super fit and has more energy and zest for life than many people half her age. She looked phenomenal and was still dancing at midnight . . .
Most of the music was provided by a local group, all of a certain age, but who have been playing and singing together for years and who went down a storm. And, yes, we all sang all the words to all the songs, from Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild to Fleetwood Mac's Man of the World. There was dancing, of course, and it seems that we all love to dance - a fair bit of flinging ourselves around in gay abandon - and then one of the male tenors, who happens to be an extremely good dancer, whirled me round the dance floor. Yes, proper dancing too! I haven't been whirled round a dance floor in, oh, 35 years and had almost forgotten the sheer delight of it (although you do need a partner who knows what's what - and mine did.) It was also the first time I had danced the night away since the Massive Inconvenience muscled its temporary way into my life three years ago and it seemed long overdue.
The last few weeks have felt just like summer should, the way we like to imagine summers used to be. At a deeper level, for me, the sheer physicality of singing and dancing has helped me to reconnect with and to forgive my own body. A disease like cancer can knock one's confidence in one's physical self but for those of us who are fortunate enough to see the disease sent packing, there is much joy to be had in reclaiming what is ours.