As I sweated in the heat of the day, preparing for a bonfire later on, I thought of the warmth that some of the cuttings pile would provide in the winter. What I was engaged in was breaking and cutting enough of the debris into bite-sized chunks and transporting them to burn in the decommissioned rusty old wheelbarrow, parked in the back drive, which was to contain the burning severed branches, brambles, and shrubs collected over the last two months. Those sylvan limbs that were thick enough to provide wood for the stove, were set aside for later sawing into logs.
First, I needed to clear a path through the undergrowth in the back drive, where the burning was to take place. This meant uprooting the usual suspects.
Early this evening I tramped backwards and forwards from the pile, down the winding brick path to the wheelbarrow, for three hours in which I barely cleared half the heap. As expected, the tyre of the barrow swelled and burst. It also caught fire, and emitted unpleasant fumes for a while. Otherwise, smoke was minimal and the dry material was consumed pretty quickly.
During our first years in Newark, perhaps 1989, when Sam would have been nine, we used an as yet undeveloped patch of land that had once been part of our garden, for our Guy Fawkes night bonfire. On this particular occasion, the sound of a fire engine came ringing in our ears, making us think someone was in trouble. As it drew nearer and the uniformed crew rushed through the garden we realised it was us in trouble. Neighbours, seeing the fire on empty terrain, had called out the brigade.
Thinking I was in charge, I explained what we were doing. I was asked what we would do if the flames got out of hand. Emerging from the thick undergrowth, up piped the young man who really was in control. ‘We’ll use this’, said Sam, holding up the nozzle of a very long hose he had, unbeknown to me, trailed from our house. The firefighters departed, satisfied. Thanks for getting me out of that one, son (this last word delivered with a Lewis Cove emphasis).
Jackie continued with her planting, weeding, watering, and path-laying; and still found time to produce roast beef; carrots, broccoli and potato mash; fried leeks with mushrooms; boiled potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower, followed by a Post House Pud based on strawberries and raspberries. She drank Hoegaarden, and I finished off some Dad’s Delight, a beer produced for Fathers’ Day.