I knew with a kind of resigned certainty, even before I reached home as I was driving back from Wakehurst the day it all fell apart, that there was nothing for it but to start all over again.
So here I am, out at the barn (my studio for the duration), with the undone 70 metres of hay rope spread out around me on the ground in broken pieces of various lengths. A sorry sight.
Starting afresh is a bit daunting so I decide to go for a wander in the hay field to get myself in the right frame of mind for the task ahead.
It’s still and humid today. All I can hear out here is buzzing flies and the lazy-sounding wood pigeons. At the edge of the hay field I stumble across a long windrow of hay that was missed not only by the baler, but also by the turning machine.
It’s mainly rye grass, with some fescue and sweet vernal grass… and the joy is that they’re lying in bundles as they were cut. The turning machine jumbles up the cut grasses and usually mashes the stems a bit. But these are long and strong. This is good because the longer the fibres you use to make rope with the stronger it’ll be.
I spend the morning lugging the windrow over to my work area. There are 10 giant armfuls in the end. I spread them out on the yard and turn them to dry in the sun; I try, somewhat in vain, to shake the seeds from out of my clothes, hair, ears.
A deep breath, plasters in place on thumb and forefinger (to reduce the chance of blisters) and a resolute heart… and off I go, once again feeling like the Miller’s daughter… only more so this second time around.
Progress is steady as I settle in to my decision to start again. I reckon I’m clocking up around 15 metres of rope per hour. This new rope is clearly much stronger than the first lot.
Just hour on hour of this gentle swishing noise (and the occasional Gatwick ‘plane overhead as you can hear)…