Sometimes the best part of a celebration is the aftermath, the spilling out of the last few revellers, long after anybody sensible has gone to bed, into the early dawn of a midsummer morning. The garden has a lingering warmth and fragrance from the stifling evening, but now also a freshness which enlivens them. They joke and drink the last champagne and swear to never forget each other: friends and lovers even if they never met before this night. There is nothing like sharing a liquid breakfast at the wrong end of a good eight hours’ sleep to bring people together.
And underlying it all a feeling of instant nostalgia, an ache for times gone by before they have even gone, an anxiety to capture and remember every sensory input before they slip away forever. The sweet smells of jasmine and honeysuckle; the soothing feel of dew-damp grass between tired toes; the heaviness in the shoulders which is the only tangible evidence of a sleepless night; the taste of champagne, the sound of birdsong, impossibly loud in the early morning quiet, and most of all the sights: the summer sunlight seen at an unaccustomed angle, the expensive clothes, now rumpled, in some cases by design: is there anyone left alive who can wear an undone bow tie unselfconsciously? The tired but happy faces which will look so painfully young in photographs. This is the apex, the culmination: but like all culminations it leaves a sense of emptiness in its wake.