Saturday, 19 October 2013

Huh. How 'bout that.

I'm not really sure what I expected when I stumbled out of bed last friday. It was quiet, and dark outside, and even inside the house there was a hush broken only by the clock on my bedside table.


A steaming hot shower later, and I feel vaguely human, which is good. I slip into an old jumper, one of those tatty thick ones which are lived in to the point of softness and always retain that smell of home no matter how many times you wash it. Jeans, wellies, gulping down scalding hot porridge and tea before getting in the car.

I get there and it's blustery and so cold that I suck in a breath. I shrug into my jacket, which I had sworn I wouldn't need. And then I stride across fields still quiet and misty and cool and pick up a bucket.

We pick over four tonnes in under six hours. Grape juice runs sticky over my fingers and down my wrists. Every so often a lone grape makes a break for freedom and shoots down my gaping sleeve, and I wriggle and squirm at the feeling.

I expected it to smell like sun-warmed vines. I expected to have to fight past narrow lanes between the vines and that the grapes would just fall into my bucket.

Instead, it smells a bit like vinegar. The lanes between the vines are wide, and I burrow for grapes like small treasures. I find myself kneeling under vines in strange contortions, and heavy clusters of grapes generously coat me with juice so that there isn't an inch of me that doesn't feel like I've been spread with honey.

Like a piece of toast.

There's about twenty, twenty-five of us. We talk and the buzz of laughter and words fills the air, and grows as the autumn sun grows warm and blissful. Conversations stop and start, sort of choppy, because one person finishes their cluster and moves on, only to pick up the conversation when a familiar face peeks at you between the leaves.

We stop for homemade sandwiches and hot tea and coffee, cupping the chipped mugs in hands that are growing stiff and grateful for the warmth that floods right down to our bellies. And then back to the bend, twist, drop rhythm that seems to have tattooed itself into our muscles.

And this time the sun casts red-gold rays across the fields, and our cheeks grow rosy and we strip down to t-shirts. And when the lorry rumbles away for the last time, we cast tired grins at each other and walk out of the leafy alleys. My brother appears, as if by magic, and we start the long walk home.

And I think, there are worse ways to spend a friday

My challenge to you? Do something different.

Much love and laughter,

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