Martin Newell’s Joy of Essex: A fridge freezer in a country lane. What possesses people?

Hops outside my back door in past years. Picture: MARTIN NEWELL

Hops outside my back door in past years. Picture: MARTIN NEWELL - Credit: Archant

September is in and I must make good a promise to myself to spend the next two months looking, just looking, at all the things which became blurred or actually disappeared during my recent eye troubles, writes Martin Newell.

The lanes in north Essex have not changed much in the 40 odd years I’ve been cycling them.

On a Sunday morning, it’s still possible to find a little ‘golden section’ with not too many vehicles zipping by.

These are the days in which to be out and about. It being early September, the fields and hedgerows hang in suspense like a class waiting for their new teacher.

They know autumn is coming. At present, though, it remains warmish, the trees are in full leaf and the perfume of summer still hangs in the air. But, as I cycle by the stubbly fields, there is something businesslike about the small gangs of birds, heads down working, before the plough comes in.

The wild roses of only weeks ago have now become trusses of hips hanging like bling in the overgrown hedges.

The wind combing the fields is more coolly assertive. I don’t need a jacket yet but some morning soon, I might.

Most Read

The hops around my back door are happy with this situation.

Hanging on their vines, they will fatten up in the coming days and soon, when I rub them between thumb and forefinger there will be an oily sensation and that characteristic hoppy aroma.

Then I’ll think “Ah-ha, time to brew some beer.”

I won’t use my own hops because although it seems a nice idea, they probably aren’t of sufficient strength for the job. I’ll buy some in. Besides, Her Outdoors has already requested my own humble harvest for something called hop pillows. These, according to Mr. Culpeper’s book, will aid sleep.

There is a sweet-spot around Sunday mid-morning in the lanes.

This occurs in the gap after the Weekend Wigginses have sallied forth, but before the families go roaring out in search of Sunday roast.

Here, then is the time for a quiet spin. One thing I have noticed after a period of rather less-frequent cycling, is a new crop in our country lanes.

I was used to seeing cans, crisp packets, the odd bin-bag and other detritus dumped in the ditches and farm gateways.

I was no stranger either, to wrapping, packing and polystyrene cups, where some sensitive group of young aesthetes had stopped to enjoy their burger banquet beside the road.

I mean, Art Statement, guys. Can a BBC2 Arena camera crew be that far behind you?

But there’s a new and bigger thug strutted into Arcadia while I was out.

This one dumps full-sized sofas and suites right out in the middle of all the rural beauty.

Only the other morning, I came across, a large (taller than me) fridge-freezer.

Remember those lovely early 1960s Ladybird books about the four seasons: What to Look For In Autumn? Text by E.L. Grant Watson, illustrations by C.F. Tunnicliffe?

Well, if they ever decide to reprint the quartet, there may have to be some serious revisions.

Out will go those close-ups of returning fieldfares. In will come a picture of two squirrels cautiously examining a broken Zanussi Whirlpool, 2006.

What possesses these people? Do they wake up as soon as the first dusty golden rays of September prise through the ruched curtains, exclaiming, “Caroline, I’ve had a simply marvellous idea! Let’s forget the antiques book fair in Lavenham, pack the fridge freezer into the back of the Deerslayer and place it jauntily into a small hawthorn recess by a farm gate, say, near Elmstead?”

Then his partner, with only the slightest tremor in her voice, replies: “Gavin, sometimes I think it’s only your wild spontaneity which has kept the romance in our marriage alive this past two months.”

Is that what happens? Because I’m hanged if I know why they do it. Or maybe it’s only because some bean-counting dolt decided we’d save an awful lot of council money if we closed down certain recycling centres and council tips.

That’s really worked, hasn’t it? But as I so often say, ‘There’s a very fine difference between clever and wrong’.

Put two old jet turbines in a well-known regional art gallery and it’s an ‘installation’.

Jettison your 1990s cream sofa in a country lane, along with a king-size fridge-freezer and that’s merely evidence of those ‘efficiencies’ occasioned by the prevailing austerity.

Never mind, though. Now I have my eye sight back the tableau of autumn still awaits my further inspection, along with a range of yesterday’s defunct household appliances.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter