Archie Hume of A Hume Country Clothing makes a seasonal plea in praise of the little things.
The list of things I enjoy about summer in the country is long and varied but the highlight is something that may surprise a few.
As the days draw out, I wheel out the BBQ and set to work with the steel bristle brush, valeting it with all the care and attention another man might lavish on his Aston Martin – for the record I drive an old VW Golf, a total banger. Anyway, back to the BBQ…
Once I’ve scrubbed it within an inch of its long-serving life, I seize the first weather-friendly opportunity to fire it up. I wait patiently, letting those coals get good and hot, until the red-hot underbelly beneath them looks fit for smelting iron. Then I slap a great, big Borders rump steak on the grill. Deeply marbled rump yields by far the best flavour. I wouldn’t bother with any other cut.
The hiss and spit as meat hits and the instant waft of steaky brilliance is my cue to take a swig of local hoppy hooch from the Tempest Brewery. I measure the cooking time in swigs – increasing in number from rare to well-done.
Seared to perfection, there is nothing to beat it. This is the taste of my summer. But it’s still not quite the highlight.
On the odd occasion I can drag my farming pals out to join us. Neil Thomson and the gang – old men now, stiff, greying and careworn after a lifetime of dutifully moaning about the weather, the harvest and crop prices. All that time spent viewing the world through the windscreen of a tractor takes its toll. But if I can muster the troops then, a long summer evening of fun and chuckles round the BBQ gets close to being up there.
Close, but not quite. The clue to my true moment of summer perfection lies in the big beefy tomatoes that sit alongside that juicy steak, or the fiery chicken marinade that owes its edge to the freshly picked chilli. Straight from the greenhouse.
Yep, that’s it. The little 6×8 glasshouse at the bottom of the garden is my summer haven. By this point in the summer, the fruits on the lower trusses are ripe and the tops of the cordons are hitting the roof. There are tomatoes of all colours, shapes and sizes. And my secret moment of summer joy happens on a Sunday morning. Me, my coffee, a bacon sarnie, some secateurs and a ball of twine.
As I work, snipping off the side shoots and tying in the vines, out the corner of my eye, I can see the River Tweed flowing, mellow and slow past the end of the garden. A swig of coffee, a bite of sarnie the moment reaches its peak.
It’s not Centre Court seats on finals day at Wimbledon. It’s not cricket at Lords. It’s the little things, our quiet little country ways that make summer in the country – and whatwhatever your little things are, I hope you’re enjoying them this summer.