During wheat harvest, Dave leaves the house about 6.30am, occasionally pops back for some breakfast but then is gone until late.
His only communication with the outside world is via his mobile, usually to request food. Very little breaks into this single-minded goal of getting his year’s work into store.
I confess that we are both guilty of being one-track minded over the summer. So when occasionally normal life breaks into our manic rushing about, it comes as a welcome relief.
The maze has been going really well. The ‘stay-cation’ concept certainly seems to have rung true in our part of the world and businesses in the area report the visitor numbers up by 15-20%. Keeping up with demand at the maze has made for a busy summer. As for our local ice cream producer and the friend who makes the homemade cakes, I’m almost apologising every time I phone them asking for more. Their products are fantastic and much appreciated by our weary visitors after their walk around the maze.
One of our busiest weekends occurred during my annual three-night camping trip with the children and friends. We left on a Thursday and it had been a really busy week at the maze. My phone seemed red hot with calls – running short of ice cream, running short of cones, people getting lost, stamp machines going missing. Armed with my mobile, I sorted the ice cream (interrupting a hen night in the process), alerted staff to the whereabouts of the lost people, ordered extra cones and organised for a new stamp machine to be made. However, the cones and the stamp machine needed picking up. That night it rained, stopping the combine. I seized my chance. “Dave, could you just…”
Obviously desperate to get out into the real world, all my requests were granted without hesitation. I was amazed. Even the picnic and play area got strimmed and cut. Or was he just avoiding joining us at the camp site? Last year’s visit to camp involved a flat mattress and no sleep on account of the cold. He had to leave at 5.30 in the morning to start his dryer and combined until 2am the following morning.
Our brother-in-law, however, did join the happy campers this year. Just for one night. Having heard about Dave’s unhappy experience last year he was taking no chances. He turned up in a brand new VW camper van that he had borrowed from work, along with his wife’s best bed linen. The euphoria of cold milk, chilled wine and cool chocolates was soon forgotten when its alarm went off as he climbed into bed at midnight. The alarm as he got up the next morning sealed his fate. A tent or nothing next year.
A couple of weeks later, our harvest/maze routines were again broken by a discovery. A Neolithic flint tool was found at the maze.
One of my student employees, who has a keen interest in archaeology, found the immaculate flint dagger/knife. She saw the tip of the head sticking up out of the path and recognised the fact that it had been worked and shaped to form a point. She dug down further and found this remarkable implement, an arrow-shaped head with a handle.
If it had been me coming across a sharp stone sticking out of the ground I would probably have dug it up and flung it into the crop while worrying about the health and safety implications of sharp flints. I’m always complaining to Dave about the number of sharp flints on the paths.
It is extraordinary to try and envisage the last person to have held that tool. Dave, being male, had to test it and opened his packet of Weetabix with it. (I love that analogy).
The find attracted local media interest and I was asked to go on Radio Suffolk for their ‘flick through the Sunday papers’ and chat about the flint and the maze.
Surreal, as I then dashed back to the maze on a very busy Sunday. Dave was trying to listen and had a clear signal in his Land Rover, but harvest beckoned and he was forced into his tractor where the signal deteriorated to a fuzz. So much for my five minutes of fame. Just as we were about to go on air the presenter turned to me and said, tongue-in-cheek, but in a generous bid to calm my nerves: “Don’t worry, nobody is listening anyway.”
Sunday lunchtime, Radio Suffolk, maybe she had a point.