Here we are, on the edge of yet another one, but I don't particularly care for summer myself. At least as compared with spring and fall. My clock started ticking when the Germans were trying to figure out a cross-channel invasion schedule. I was born in the north of Scotland on what was regarded popularly, though not with complete astronomical precision, as a summer's day, June 6, 1941, three years before D-Day, with my father far away in London where the Luftwaffe's bombs and rockets were falling. My mother had evacuated to the large house of an American friend, just north of Inverness. She felt the pangs come on that Sunday morning, and the doctor arrived with kilt and fishing rod, mightily displeased to be called from his fly-casting.

Down in London and denied access to the north of Scotland because he was a Red, my father went down the street to the shop to get a Sunday paper. Down came one of Hitler's rockets, up went 5, Acacia Road and St. Johns Wood. My father returned to find a lot of rubble and the cat with its fur blown off. The cat thought my father had done it, had a nervous breakdown, and never did forgive. So much for seasonal precedent.

Hitler had plans. One of them was to shoot my father. The Nazi blacklist prepared for the German force poised to cross the channel featured Claud Cockburn. We never saw a copy until Alan Moorhead used the relevant page as an illustration in his book Invasion 1940, because Churchill's name was on it. There was papa's name, a few lines lower, with the correct address for his office on Victoria Street, where he'd published The Week, a newsletter the Fuehrer and his associates didn't care for.

All Commies would have been shot, anyway. The Nazis felt the same way as the British War Office, whose plan was to draft all the Reds, send them to the front lines, and hope that the German Panzers would do their duty.

But then the War Office worried that the Commies, in the span between recruitment and dispatch to the front lines, would foment discord and mutiny among the troops. So, my father got his call-up papers, then, almost immediately, a letter saying forget about it.

Back in London, I spent a lot of my first summer evenings down in St. Johns Wood subway station, where many in our neighborhood would flee when the bombing got bad. At first, the authorities refused to allow any deep shelter program on the grounds that if the people went underground, they'd never come out. Even though Churchill used an abandoned subway station as a shelter himself, according to his secretary, he was "thinking on authoritarian lines about shelters and talks of forcibly preventing people from going into the underground."

There's a myth now about the British hanging together in those dark days. "London can take it," Ed Murrow told America in his CBS broadcasts. Actually, morale was appalling. Most people correctly had little confidence in the competence of their government, and thought Germany was going to win. In the Channel Islands, which the Nazis did take over, the people greeted them hospitably and turned in Jews with zest. The British Ministry of Information employed 10,000 people to read people's mail surreptitiously, intercepting about 200,000 letters a week, and discovered that people were deeply pessimistic and thought Churchill was "played out."

Secret government reports spelled out the popular lack of nerve: "Portsmouth -- on all sides we hear that looting and wanton destruction had reached alarming proportions. The police seem unable to exercise control. ... The effect on morale is bad, and there is a general feeling of desperation ... their nerve had gone." In Portsmouth during the heavy bombing, about 90,000 a night were leaving the city.

Churchill's famous speeches about their "finest hour," and so forth, didn't have much effect, either. He delivered them in the House of Commons, and when the BBC asked him to rebroadcast them on the radio, he refused. So, the BBC secretly used an actor named Norman Shelley to read them out, pretending to be Churchill. Shelley's usual role was to play Larry the Lamb on "Children's Hour." Most people didn't actually know what Churchill's voice sounded like, and those who did thought it sounded funny. Letters poured into Number 10 Downing St., asking what was wrong with the P.M.

Many people tried to shut out the war as much as they could. By the end of 1940, nearly a third of the population admitted to not following news of the war. When asked what depressed them most, people put the weather first, then, war news, then, the air raids. Life was rotten anyway for a huge slab of the population, which was malnourished, poorly housed, barely educated and deeply discontented. When they visited the East End, the King and Queen were soundly booed. In the summer of 1941, a woman got five years in prison for saying, "Hitler was a good man, a better man than Mr Churchill."

Summers were colder and wetter back then before the blessed arrival of nineties warm-up. Even now, in Northern California, I'm not enamored of the season. By rights, spring should last until late July. Then, a week of summer, abolish August, and then, have a fall lasting until February. A month of winter, then spring again.

To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.