Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Black Hands & Smoky Tea

I’d quite forgotten the power of that oh so distinctive aroma of hops until Sylvia Hayward reminded me in yesterday’s comment. The smell is so characteristic, so unique that just one whiff will hurl the recipient directly into bygone Septembers in the Kentish countryside. How efficiently the sense of smell works on our most basic emotions to trigger memories from long ago. And the lost aroma of hops is particularly vibrant, bringing me always back to a pause in effort and exertion in those late summer afternoons when my Grandmother and Aunts clasped mugs of smoky tea produced by my mother with hands black from harvesting.

George Orwell on one of his Life Among The Poor projects in the 1930s maintained that Hop Picking was far from being a holiday and as far as remuneration was concerned, no worse employment existed in his opinion. He complained bitterly about his stained hands, his cracked fingers and made no comment concerning the idiosyncratic smell that is capable of bringing tears to the eyes of the rest of us. For we Ex-Hoppers, Going Hopping will remain always an experience so idyllic we struggle to find words adequate for the memories.

As for that aroma - one of my sons suggested new mown grass might be comparable – my neighbor felt the skin of a newly bathed baby was close to bliss. Neither of them, however, have ever Been Hopping!

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