The month of June always brings to my mind the expression Flaming June, as well as the painting of the same name that is the magnum opus of Frederic, Lord Leighton. The painting is classicist in nature, and the sleeping woman alludes to the nymphs and naiads often sculpted by the Greeks. It is a stunning painting with rich, colours. It’s also strange to think that it went out of fashion, disappeared from the art scene for a while and now resides in Puerto Rico. For those that are interested, Lord Leighton is the shortest live peer of all time (having lived for a single day after being made a hereditary peer). His work is associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, and there is a wonderful gallery, Leighton House Museum*, at his former home in Kensington, which is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
It’s easy to say that the weather this year can’t be described as Flaming June, and that it couldn’t be any more different to how it was twelve months ago. On my afternoon walk today with Alfie, my dog, I thought of this charming painting, the heady summer of last year, the long, drowsy afternoons walking or resting by the river Cam. I very much doubt that anyone would have been slumbering en plein air today, even mystical nymphs or naiads
Even so, it was lovely to walk along by the Grand Union Canal despite everything being absolutely bedraggled. It was so wet that even the ducks and Canada geese were sheltering from the rain. There were gorgeous orangey-yellow flames of flag-irises at the side of the river,and cheerful but soaked-to-the skin holidaymakers at locks, who were determined to make the most of their narrow boat holidays – no matter how wet and cold they became.
To Alfie, this kind of drenched-to the-bone walk is absolute heaven. To those that know him, he does like to rescue the occasional ‘fetch it’, aka a stick, from his water-side walks. Today, there were so many extra smells and interesting things to explore, all brought out by the rain. To be honest, the last thing I really wanted to do this afternoon was to put my waterproofs on and walk in the horizontal rain. I’d have much rather stayed indoors, lit the fire and curled up with a book, but I’m glad I did because, today more than any other day, made me appreciate just how much pleasure can be taken from a simple walk along the river; that despite grey skies, if you just look, whether it’s at the brightly coloured canal boats, the goslings that have survived to adolescence, the cheerful chat of a stranger, that there is always is always something interesting and uplifting to be found.
* The Leighton House Museum, https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/leightonhousemuseum1.aspx