Small Pleasures: dappled sunlight

I come from the North West of England. I grew up facing into horizontal rain being driven in off the Irish Sea. The Northern skies over deep water of my childhood were beautiful but seldom cloudless and rarely had sunlight strong enough to make me burn.

At least, that’s how I remember it now, decades later.

Now I live in Switzerland 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) further south and 700 metres (2,230 feet) higher and I’ve come to understand the importance of shade.

Here summer days are long, the sky is often a bright unclouded blue and the sun shines fiercely enough to ripen whole terraced hillsides of grapes. The evenings may belong to the bellows of thunder along the lake and the manic flashes of lightning across the mountains but the day belongs to the sun.

Today started cloudless. By eleven the sky was blue and the temperature a steady 28C (82F) with almost no breeze, even by the lake. I was in a teeshirt and jeans and felt overdressed.

The need to find shade asserted itself, so I walked along the Vevey Promenade to take a coffee in one of my favourite places


The Promenade is treelined here and offers great views across Lake Geneva to the Alps rising up on the other side.

My attention was on the small cluster of umbrella-shaded seats next to a classic silver Airstream trailer that’s been converted into a food-truck and serves some of the best coffee in Vevey.

My younger, born-under-Northern-skies self would have made straight for the public bench and worshipped the sun. He’s never have wondered why the bench hadn’t been claimed by locals ahead of him. The locals, of course, are all in the shade.

I sat in the shade, coffee in hand, relishing being able to see the sun on the water without having it pushing down on my shoulders and taunting me for not bringing a hat and reminded myself that small pleasures are worth treasuring.

Yet the shade offers more than relief from the heat of the sun. It offers its own dappled beauty. As I walked back into town along an avenue of shade trees the simple complexity of light through shade struck me as it always does.


When Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote:

“Glory be to God for dappled things -“

he was referring to English skies but I think, if he’d seen the lacework of shadows cast by the trees along the Promenade today, he’d be thanking his God for shade trees.

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