Well, the wettest, yes, we have met office statistics, but as I lay in bed last night and listened to the throb of the burners heating up the oast house just up the road, I realised at last, September was here.
We desperately wanted to move into our house in September 2010 (well August 2010, but there were complications) so that we could watch the comings and goings of the hop harvest. We are surrounded by hop fields here in Kent, indeed from where I sit, I can see a row of dilapidated hoppers sheds used to accommodate the pickers as they thronged in from London. It wasn’t to be, we missed the 2010 harvest so stupidly imagined we’d be here for the 2011 one. I saw that one on my own. And although we’ve had enough rain to make beer flow down the street, the 2012 harvest is about to start and Mike will again just miss it. Actually there’s not really much to it apart from discarded hops all over the lanes and a rusty old tractor buzzing 24hrs a day from field to oast. But it smells nice.
I don’t put hop bines in my kitchen. Mainly because there’s no room and also because it reminds me of the time when I lived with my sister. Mum, so exasperated by our attempts at housekeeping, decided to become our cleaner and Julie arrived home one evening from work to find mum dusting the dried old hop bine that had been hanging in the kitchen. They make a mess when they collapse, a bigger mess that the one she’d come to sort out. I also made a hop pillow earlier in the year, from last year’s crop and almost sneezed my head off. They are now confined in a plastic bag amongst the “craft things I’m going to sell one day”.
It’s difficult for me not to get maudlin at this time of year, during this specific year. I had hoped last year to be in our new home to see autumn arrive, but of course, we were living in a caravan. So I looked forward to autumn 2011, but like the season I find I am drooping, wilting and dropping off! Or, to carry the analogy even further, find I am cut down in my prime.
It’s hop harvesting time and as we have moved a couple of hundred yards from a working Oast House, it’s a time of tractors buzzing up and down the road, the damson filled hedgerows combing the bines as they pass and soon air will be heavy with the sweet green smell as the cones slowly dry. Then it’s bagging up time and the same buzzing tractors will haul off weightless hessian sacks full to the brim of beer in the making.
So why am I maudlin. Not only did I grow my sweetcorn in the hope that my husband and I would gorge ourselves on it at this time of year, but this is the one season that the reason behind our local buildings are made apparent. All those converted oast houses around and hoppers cottages tell us our heritage. And I so hoped that we would be here together.
I tried to go for a walk alone yesterday, but I didn’t get very far, I couldn’t breathe. I realised that I was so tense, I was taking shallow breaths so that I just couldn’t continue. It was everything around me, reminded me of the good walks we had before husband went away. We’d comment on everything, stop and eat from the trees and hedgerows, advise what was about to come into season and talk. Talk and talk and talk. I feel very guilty because I remind myself of my Aunty who lost her husband, so early (he was just 50). I am being selfish and self-pitying I know, because my husband is coming back. But I understand the pain she must have gone through.
The loneliness when someone you love has left for sometime is burning, it is salved for a moment or two when you are occupied, but then you stop, and the burning is back.
The tactor buzzes up the hill again and reminds me to get off my mawkish arse and get occupied.