Monday, September 5, 2016

September,Hop-picking,blackberries and scrumping

First week of September, a little cooler and mostly damper, a whiff of wood smoke in the air, blackberries in the hedgerows apples on the trees.  All this makes an old eastender remember  the  days gone by when September was hopping time. Our family made regular visits to the Kent hopfields from the East End of London between the wars.
  Up early when it was only just beginning to get light to be in the fields to start work at seven oclock. The bines were nearly always wet either from the rain or early morning dew, so the pickers were showered when pulling the first few bines.  Even the kids went early to the fields  despite the damp and the cold.  English autumns are rarely warm until the day is nearly over so it was a question of being wrapped up and wellies every day.

For those who dont know it,  hops used to part of the making of beer.  Hops then were picked by hand before the invention of machinery for doing it.  There was not a sufficient population in the Kent countryside to gather in the harvest so workers were recruited mostly from the East End of London who regarded it as a kind of working holiday in the country.

It was certainly a big change from the council flats and small terraced houses of the east end.  All that fresh air!  Living in a wooden hut for two weeks sleeping on mattress covers filled with straw. 
It was mostly fun for the kids even though most were given a target of hops to be picked or buckets of water to be collected for the washing and cooking before they could go and play.  And play we did.  Whilst at home we were not all that restricted, it was still different though to roam the fields, paddling in ditches, finding stuff to eat in the hedges and so on. 
Food was different too.  Lunch was cheese sandwiches almost every day and the evening meal was cooked on a camp fire.  Quite a lot of stews because they were easy but there was always roast dinners on Sunday followed by spotted dick or jam pudding, all cooked on the fire.
Evenings for the kids was spent sitting around the camp fire, roasting potatoes or apples scrumped form an adjacent orchard.  All good clean fun.