Archive for June, 2012

A road that appears every summer? A story that certainly does


summer lane









As we wait, poised on the eve of another mythical Lethmachen summer, it will come as no surprise to those who listen that the first whisperings of Summer Lane are drifting our streets. Like May Day celebrations or the end of the school term, these annual rumours have become part of the ritual heralding summer, although not all find something to celebrate. Yet for better or for worse, we can lay claim to our own version of Brigadoon, although its appearances are conveniently more frequent. For the benefit of non-residents, some further explanation is probably required. Summer Lane is said to be a winding, tapering (capering?) thoroughfare that appears and disappears from various locations across town during the summer months. Most typically it takes the appearance of a leafy byway on the rural perimeters of Lethmachen, although occasionally it masquerades as an alley way off the lower high street, or a footpath running as quietly as a stream behind flowering suburban gardens. Whichever form it chooses, it rarely remains in the same place for more than twenty four hours, and no sightings have ever been reported during autumn or winter. You will not find a ‘Summer Lane’ in the local A to Z, and it is likely that many of its manifestations pass unnoticed. Some even doubt its existence. However, those who have experienced the phenomena, and have returned to tell the tale, swear that they remember the name of the street, that there was a sign as they left the main road intending to try a short cut.

What lies along Summer Lane? As you would expect, recollections are hazy, opinions differ. In fact witness accounts tend to be incredibly diverse, prompting the suggestion that the personality of the individual involved may have a significant impact on the nature of the experience. Certainly it is generally believed that, as in purported cases of spontaneous human combustion, a specific combination of elements have to be present if Summer Lane is to materialise. Temperature, time of day, quality of light, patterns of weather; all must be in perfect synchronicity. Sceptics may be surprised to learn quite how many of the local population are willing to offer firsthand testimony of stumbling upon, and sometimes venturing down, Summer Lane. On interviewing the latter it soon became apparent that often their experiences included variations on a familiar theme. Overlooking all the minor discrepancies, and ignoring some of the more fantastical contributions, I soon recognised echoes of the old fireside tales concerning The Fairy Folk and their hidden tracks and secret places. Whether drawing consciously on these legends or not, frequently characteristics were shared, from the sense of timelessness to the heightened surroundings, complete with strange music filling the air like pollen. It is worth noting that the recurring reference points were childhood and dreaming: ‘It was like I was young again, with not a care in the world’; ‘I thought I was sleepwalking, remembering this beautiful place I had forgotten’. This sudden, soporific feeling of content was common, a pleasing sensation mingling assimilation with resignation, ‘like walking home, tired but happy after a long day, the sun winking at you all the way’.

Perhaps they stepped out somewhere unexpected, nowhere near where they thought they were, yet the majority of those who walked the length of Summer Lane returned home with no more ill effects than a slight headache and a vague sense of disenchantment. However there are murmurings of darker outcomes and mysterious disappearances. Friends who were ‘not the same’ after encountering fellow travellers who had no right to be there. Neighbours who entered the lane too late in the season, when summer was on the turn and the fruits in the hedgerows had grown sour, and everything fades away. ‘Don’t let autumn catch you idling! That’s what my grandmother used to say!’ warned Mrs Devise, 83, of Chattocks Road. Confused folk memory or genuine, unexplained phenomenon? If the more sinister stories are to be believed then Summer Lane could prove to be Lethmachen’s answer to the Bermuda Triangle. Neither has corners.

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