Eddie Mair: The longest day is tinged with sadness

"Call us unnecessarily pessimistic. Just don’t call us after 10.30pm on the 21st. We’ll be out, savouring the fading of the light"


Nature has given us many splendoured things. The scent of rosemary. A baby’s laughter. Lulu. But in my opinion it’s hard to beat the longest day of the year.


And I’m not referring to having to wait up for that England match last Saturday. (Boy, was that a terrific/appalling result at the end of such an uneventful/action-packed game?)

When I say longest day, I’m talking about that glorious 24 hours when the sun is having such a good time it barely goes to bed. You gotta love that Axial Tilt – who, coincidentally, is the prime minister of Finland.

I have a couple of friends at work (astonishingly) who share with me a fascination for daylight. In the depths of December, when the sun goes on holiday to Australia, we take comfort in the fact that the shortest day has arrived. We actually become jollier because imperceptibly, incrementally, the light is returning. I’ve just been checking back through text messages we exhanged back in December. This is what we wrote on Christmas Eve in the darkness of 5pm:

Me: “Greatly enjoying these longer evenings.” 

Fiona: “Did you notice how much lighter it truly was at 4pm? Seriously!”

Roger: “I’ve ordered blackout blinds.”

The flip side of that optimism is that this week, when the longest day arrives, it is tinged with sadness. The light will inevitably, imperceptibly, incrementally be taken from us. Call us glass-half-empty people. Call us unnecessarily pessimistic. Just don’t call us after 10.30pm on the 21st. We’ll be out, savouring the fading of the light. 

Not the Ambridge diary

Walking along a canal towpath in west London last Sunday, all my usual towpath thoughts were running through my head. It goes like this:

1. Walking along the canalside is just lovely.

2. Wouldn’t it be lovelier to be on one of those lovely barges? Idling on the water. Carefree.

3. I wonder how you steer them. What do you do if another barge is coming towards you? Is it like cars and you go on the left?

4. Oh my God, what happens if you enter a dark tunnel and there’s a barge coming the other way?

5. Walking along the canalside is just lovely.

My idiocy was interrupted by the sound of David Archer chatting to his mum on one of the barges. For a split second I actually thought they were on board. It was more than a split second. I looked through the small windows to try to spot them. My stupidity shocks even me sometimes, and I’m used to it.

It was just The Archers omnibus. David and Jill weren’t in London, they were in Ambridge where they live, of course.


In a recent column on the delights of Northampton I drew your kind attention to the Are You Being Served? shop and the BBC – the “Black Bottom Club: Members Only”.

At the risk of this becoming a series, a wedding sent me to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex last week. It was a rather pretty place. The morning after the festivities, I had a delicious snack in a well-maintained establishment near the Co-op. Nice range of eats on offer, and friendly staff, too. And I only went in on the strength of the name: Mrs-Sippy’s Coffee Shop. 


Eddie Mair presents PM Monday to Friday at 5:00pm and iPM on Saturdays at 5:45am on Radio 4