I feel that it's about time for a heart-felt lament in praise and memory of a much-loved natural phenomenon that once graced all our lives.
It's something that we all remember fondly from our childhoods and more recent holidays abroad, but is rarely seen these days.
I'm talking about blue skies, of course. Brilliant blue skies that stretch from horizon to horizon, with not a cloud in sight, the joyous backdrop to that season we call 'summer'.
Not that it's dull and grey everywhere...
Once you leave these shores things begin to change – Norway, for example, has been having hot, sunny weather recently, and there have been heatwaves in Greece and other countries in the southern Mediterranean. But in case you've forgotten what a blue sky looks like – according to the BBC last night, Edinburgh has only had 1.5 hours of sunshine so far this month – here are a few images to jog your memory:
Spend a glorious week walking from the Alps to the Mediterranean in southern France and you will be greeted by blue seas and skies as you descend from the rugged mountains and arrive in the cosmopolitan Côte d'Azur town of Menton on the Italian border (above left). Hundreds of miles to the north, the Lofoten Islands (above right) owe their benign climate to effects of the Gulf Stream, despite being above the Arctic Circle. Bright mornings and clear fresh air provide a sharpness and clarity to far-reaching views of jagged mountains and tranquil fishing villages that is simply breathtaking.
The Canary Islands are renowned for their blue skies and warm weather thoughout the year, though the northern slopes of many islands, like Tenerife, are green and lush, thanks to the low-lying blanket of cloud that sweeps in from the Atlantic. However, climb above the cloud to walk amid the volcanic deserts of Tenerife and El Teide (above left) and you enter another world altogether - though maybe not quite as other-worldly as the strange landscapes of Cappadocia in central Turkey, seen at their best early in the morning from the serenity of a hot-air balloon (above right). The walking here is exhilarating, too, with intriguing rock formations around every corner and hotels carved out of the rock itself.
Located in the northern end of Italy's heel, Puglia is a largely unknown region to many, yet towns like Trani (above left) boast a fabulous Mediterranean climate. Here, you can spend a week exploring the vineyards and castles of the south on a leisurely cycling holiday in Italy that uncovers an astonishing wealth of artistic and historic treasures. I suppose it would be a bit unfair to completely ignore the UK here, despite the awful summer most of us are having. It's the plentiful rainfall (ha!) and temperate climate that make this such a "green and pleasant land", after all. So, don't despair – warm, sunny days will return and you will soon be enjoying gentle strolls through the idyllic landscapes of Shropshire (above right), Secret Suffolk perhaps or maybe the picturesque Cotswolds.