The Summer Harvest
Now, if I'm not working I quite like a lazy Saturday morning where breakfast and coffee might not finish until 1130. Two weeks ago at just gone 0800 we were driving out into the country with me wondering quite what I had let myself in for. As ever, I am stunned by the number of people who are up and about and hurriedly on their way to somewhere at some ridiculous hour in the morning. We arrived to be greeted by very strong coffee and schnapps; well things started well anyway. By 0900 everyone was assembled and each was given a bucket and a pair of secateurs and we all marched off to the slopes where the heavily fruited vines were waiting. The method is, each pair of people are given a row and, with one each side, you slowly work your way up the row cutting off the bunches and filling the buckets. With the quantity of grapes on these vines my bucket was soon over-full. Good I thought, time for a small rest. As if on cue a man wearing a giant bucket on his back arrived and my grapes were soon transferred to his back allowing my work to continue. Still it was a pleasant warm morning and apart from having to be bent double to find some of the grapes the work was not really hard. The next person to turn up was carrying some glasses and a five litre plastic container. Suddenly the whole exercise took on a different light, this was last years efforts and would be a welcome source of thirst-quenching refreshment. In fact the man with the container of wine turned up at about the same regularity as the man collecting my grapes and it was not long before the grapes were becoming harder to see! By the time my wife and I reached the end of our row I am sure that I hade drunk more wine than the grapes I had picked could manufacture. I also noticed that we were well behind everyone else as they had already moved on to another row. Then one person, clearly endowed with the eyes of a hawk, noticed that we had overlooked three grapes somewhere in our 50-metre row and I was convinced that we had thus deserved a punishment in some form of public ridicule. This was become more difficult than I imagined, the more I picked the more I drank the less easy was it to find the grapes I was supposed to pick and the more amused everyone else became. Still after an hour or so the grapes were all transferred to huge buckets on a trailer behind a tractor and it was time for lunch. Things were looking up! Bread, and loads of meat and pickled peppers and, oh, there's a surprise, more wine to drink. After this refreshment we all moved to another field of grapes and the whole exercise started again. At the end of this work it was all back to the farmhouse and an amazing lunch was put on for 40 people, soup and meats and salads and bread and... too much to list! Oh yes, more wine of course! I cannot imagine any family in England so easily entertaining 40 people to lunch. Who actually owns 40 soup bowls? Even pooling resources I think I would have to visit about 6 friends before I could make such a collection, amazing! From what I remember it was a really great day. A good example of the communal spirit and friendship built up by working - well in my case stumbling around and drinking - together. We actually got invited to another the following week, so we can't have been that bad, or perhaps we were just amusing entertainment. Sadly I could only stay until mid-day as I was working in the afternoon. I will apologise now if there were any strange mistakes in my radio announcements that day, I blame the wine!