“THE NIGHTS will be drawing in.”

My neighbour delivered this cheery news earlier this week after pointing out that the longest day was almost upon us.

“Longest day, shortest night - it’s downhill all the way now,” he said.

June 21 might be known as the summer solstice, when the earth's tilt toward the sun is at a maximum and the sun is at its highest position in the sky, but as a conversation topic it serves to remind people of one thing - that from now on days are getting shorter.

The occasion sparks thoughts of the coming seasons: that you may be smearing yourself in sun cream now, but it won’t be long before you’re wearing your thermals and closing the curtains at 5pm. From today we will lose between two and four minutes of daylight a day, which, over a month, is quite a lot.

“It’ll soon be t’ backend,” the older generations used to say, in the North Yorkshire village where I grew up.

Even though most people consider June 21 as the date of the summer solstice, it can happen anytime between June 20 and June 22.

It’s an odd occasion. Steeped in mysticism, unless you spend the evening at Stonehenge - as thousands do every year - or some other ancient stone circle or burial mound, it usually passes without ceremony.

In my younger days I occasionally pondered getting into the spirit of the occasion, donning a druid-style robe, weaving stitchwort into my hair and making my way to Glastonbury Tor to chant and dance around with a burning torch. But I’ve never felt the solsticey vibe strongly enough.

It’s never too late: I suppose I could always make an effort closer to home, head up to the stone circle on Ilkley Moor, do jolly things with wooden poles and hug a few stones - the sort of things people get up to.

We'll soon be closing the curtains at 5pm. Picture: PixabayWe'll soon be closing the curtains at 5pm. Picture: Pixabay (Image: Pixabay)

Midsummer Day takes place a couple of days after the solstice. Midsummer, they call it, but more often than not when it arrives, summer has barely got started. This year we haven’t had so much as hint of those of long, hot, hazy days when the smell of grilled burgers fills the streets, roads to the coast are clogged and hosepipe bans see us emptying bath water on our petunias.

Lately, it’s been more like winter. For most of last week I found myself watching TV on an evening, wearing a thick cardigan and fleece, with a hot water bottle shoved up the front of it. I’ve resisted lighting the stove, but only because I can’t be bothered to clean it out the next morning.

If the summer solstice brings thoughts of the dark days of November, December and January, the winter solstice, which takes place on December 21, brings hope of lighter nights to come.

The shortest day is certainly not celebrated in the same way as the summer solstice. But, unlike June 21, it brings expressions of hope, as nights gradually become lighter and the weeks advance to spring.

“It’s lighter nights from now on,” people will optimistically say, making a point of mentioning the time of day that they closed their curtains. People clutch at straws, making a mental note of every extra second of light.

I’m quite happy to see the arrival of the summer solstice. I’m an autumn and winter person. I love crisp, chilly days and dark evenings, so the gradual erosion of summer and darkening of nights doesn’t bother me at all.

Roll on the backend, that’s what I say - for me, it's something to celebrate.