The water lilies were in bloom in the plastic ponds by the vast expanse of car-parks as I stepped out of the abandoned chemical works in the outskirts of town after my second full-day training course in as many days. I decided to take a short sky break* and check my vouchers as the three mile walk home swung me past (potentially) Lidl, Tescos, M&S, Sainsburys and Wilkinsons. Capitalism being such as it is though (broken) my vouchers were expired, irrelevant, or for things too heavy to idly sling in a rucksack. But the sun was warm, and the odour of humane rat traps and fag butts was overwhelmed by the tangle of honeysuckle that shields the smoking area from the sharp winds that whip across the fields beyond the town. If I closed my eyes I could hear skylarks.
July is honeysuckle, wild clematis and other heady hardy creepers and the smell and buzzing of ecstatic hoverflies followed me across the car-park, sweet over the sharp tang of diesel particulates and the soft roar of traffic on the main road. Out on the main road, sun was already baking the Hawthorn hedge to tawney orange, and underneath, the sandy soil along the edge of the tarmac was pocked with ant-flight holes, tiny moundlets and the occasional conical depression marking the home of an ant lion.
In the retail park (I'd opted to go to Tescos, though more to shed the four cups of tea that had seen me through the afternoon's training than to go shopping) the municipal maples and low Lonerica hedges made gorgeous little green tunnels through the baking expanses of the car-parks; I followed them to the door of the supermarket where I found Shasta daisies and Graceful Lamb's Tails stacked in the porch like kidnapped débutantes, in various stages of fresh from the fridge, waiting to be rescued and wilting on the shelf. I left them. If they're still there (um, no, they won't be, never mind).
Science park follows retail park, where the vast expanse of meadow in the still-to-be-developed unit space is in sharp contrast with the prestige planting round the new British Gas offices which are bringing jobs to Cowley. The impressive cordons and semi-mature trees are suffering in the heat, fancy purple leaves drooping, but from the humidity a thunderstorm might bring them back. As I cut across the meadow, the expected buzz and flutter of bees and butterflies seems sparse; the heat of the day, or the proximity of the third busiest roundabout on the ring-road?
Another green tunnel footpath under variegated maples. Out on the road, as I head to the shopping centres and Wilkinsons (where there are some cut-price planters which I think will suit my hanging tomatoes) the planting, municipal and personal, is mature, and those plants which have won the race (a fantastic border of Astelia, a vast Catalpa Tree) are in full flow of awesomeness. The centre itself is decked out in UKIP colours - blazing purple purple and vivid yellow hanging baskets and planters (city centre ones are a triumphant red this year). I obtain my planters. The tomatoes will be happy tonight.
*Sky break: like a smoke break, and often in the smoking area, but without smoking.