My Father's Garden: Summer House and Brewery

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Summer House and Brewery is a chapter from R J Dent's novel-in-progress, My Father's Garden.

Submitted: April 26, 2016

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Submitted: April 26, 2016

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My Father’s Garden: Summer House and Brewery

by R J Dent

 

 

Summer House

 

Once my father realised that my sister never went near, let alone into, the tree house he’d built for her, he decided to dismantle it and built a summer house instead.

For the next few evenings, he very carefully disassembled the tree house and stacked all of the individual pieces against the shed wall.

He then drew a plan of the new summer house. He used a piece of butcher’s paper and a wax crayon, and then explained the diagram to me.

– It’s got a hexagonal back and sides and a flat front for maximum sunlight capture.

I nodded, wondering about the ‘maximum sunlight capture’.

Anyway, within a week, my father had built a summer house. It looked exactly like the one in his diagram, which ordinarily would have been a positive factor or a compliment, but which, in this case, was not.

It was a wooden structure that looked a lot like a very large sentry box. The back and sides nodded at hexagonality; the front was two huge sliding patio doors.

– It looks like a public lavatory, my brother said.

– It’s a bit open-fronted for that, my father protested.

– That’s why I said ‘public’.

My mother wasn’t very keen on it either.

– What is it?

– It’s a summer house, my father said, a little crestfallen.

– Oh, I see.

– Don’t you like it?

– It’s not that, my mother said. It’s just that…

– Just that…? my father prompted.

– Well, it’s just that I thought you were hanging lanterns.

– Lanterns?

– Yes. I thought you were putting lanterns all round the garden so that there was a warm glow at night.

– If you want lanterns, my father said gallantly, you shall have lanterns. Then he dashed off to get something – probably lanterns – from the shed.

My mother looked at the summer house, shook her head ruefully, then slowly made her way back towards the house.

 

Lanterns

 

My father came back to the summer house with the box of EXTERIOR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS. He fished out the home-made coloured lights and started threading the cable through tree branches, shrubs, hedge branches, fence posts – in fact, on anything that would hold its weight. He made the cable follow the right angle shape of the hedge and the fence at the bottom right hand corner of the garden.

He then went into the house and returned with a stack of paper lampshades, which he attached to each bulb rose.

If it rained, there’d be problems.

It didn’t rain.

My father then took all of the silver, black, maroon and mustard bulbs out of the roses and put them into the EXTERIOR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS box, which he then picked up and carried away.

I sat in the summer house until my father returned with a full-looking carrier bag.

He took out a green light bulb and fitted it into one of the empty roses. Then he did the others.

Finally, he fetched an extension cable reel, paying out cable as he unravelled it. He plugged the lights in and went to plug it into the shed socket.

The lights came on. They looked quite good, even in daylight.

My father returned and went round adjusting the lights until he was happy with their positions.

Then he switched them off.

He looked at me.

– Not a word to your mother, he said. I want her to see the lights when it’s dark.

– I won’t tell her.

He nodded and was gone.

That evening, when it was dark, he switched the lights on. The corner of the garden was bathed in a gentle green glow. The undergrowth took on a magical look.

My father took my mother down the garden to see.

– Oh, how lovely, she said.

– Perhaps we could sit out here in the summer house, my father suggested.

My mother shook her head.

– The lights are lovely, but I’m not sitting in there, she said, pointing at the summer house. It’s not right; it’s too far from the house for one thing.

– I could move it forward a bit – put it nearer the house, my father said.

– No, it’s not right, and no amount of moving or adjusting it will make it right.

– Oh.

– You could always reassign it.

– To what?

– Well, you always wanted a dark room for your photography. Why not use it for that?

It sounded as though she felt guilty for not liking the summer house. I liked it, but my mother never would. She didn’t like the nest of slow worms that nested beneath its floor; she didn’t like the fact that it was a long way from the house; she didn’t like the two patio doors at the front; she didn’t like the fact that it was made out of the remnants of an unwanted tree house.

In short, she didn’t like it.

– I can’t use it as a dark room because it’s got glass doors and is in direct sunlight, my father said.

– All right, then what else could you use it for?

– It’d make a good place to make wine, beer and cider, my father said.

– Your very own brewery, my mother said. That’s a good idea.

And that’s how my father turned an unwanted summer house into a brewery.

 

Brewery

 

Beer

 

The first thing my father did in his new brewery was attempt to brew his own beer.

On a low table by the door was a brand-new bright yellow plastic dustbin with a lockable lid. The dustbin was three-quarters filled with an evil-smelling brew that was gently bubbling and fermenting.

My brother and I went to investigate. We found our father dropping some potato peelings, carrot tops and eggshells into the brewing dustbin.

– This is going to be le brew par excellence, he said.

– What does le brew par excellence mean?

– An excellent brew.

– Oh. So it’s another way of saying it’s a quintessential example of the kind in question, is it?

– Never mind the linguistics. What do you think of the beer?

We peered at the scummy liquid in the dustbin.

– When will it be ready?

– It takes four weeks to ferment

– So four weeks…

– No. Then it has to be bottled and left for another four weeks.

– So it’ll take two months to be ready.

– Yes.

– And is it fermenting now?

– Partially. But I’ve got to add this.

My father held up a small sachet. It was a tinfoil square with a transparent front.

– Is it a condom? my brother asked.

– I may not be as experienced at brewing as the Carlsberg family, my father said, but even I know that beer is not perfected by throwing a condom into it at the fermenting stage.

I could see that my brother wanted to say something, but for some reason stopped himself.

– It’s yeast, my father said, as he tore the sachet open with his teeth.

He held the yeast over the dustbin contents.

– Ready?

We nodded.

He poured the few flakes of yeast into the dustbin. It lay scattered on the surface of the beer for a moment and then sank below the surface.

– Watch.

We watched. I half-expected to see fins break the surface.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, the liquid started to move.

– What’s it doing?

– Moving.

– The yeast is eating the fermentable sugars.

The liquid started to froth and bubble. It quickly formed a head of foam.

– Hecate’s still angry.

My father sighed.

– Just keep your eye on the fermenter.

– What’s that?

– The container.

– You mean the dustbin.

– It’s called a fermenter.

– It’s a yellow dustbin.

By now the liquid was bubbling wildly. My father put the lid back on and clicked it closed. He picked up a leaflet and started to read from it.

– That’s what’s known as the vigorous fermentation and it’ll continue over the next few days, he said. During this stage the fermentable sugars (maltose, glucose, and sucrose) are consumed by the yeast, while ethanol and carbon dioxide are produced as by-products by the yeast. A layer of sediment, known as the lees, appears at the bottom of the fermenter…

He looked at my brother.

– I told you it was a fermenter, didn’t I?

He continued reading:

– …fermenter composed of heavy fats, proteins and inactive yeast. Upon conclusion of fermentation, the beer is carbonated before it is consumed. This is typically done by bottle carbonation with priming sugar. Any bottle that is able to withstand the pressure of carbonation can be used, such as used beer bottles, flip-top bottles with rubber stoppers, or even plastic bottles such as sparkling water bottles, provided they are properly sanitized. Priming briefly reactivates the yeast that remains in the bottle, carbonating the brew. Bottled beer becomes clear quicker than kegged beer, since the yeast does not have as far to descend.

– Why are you telling us this? my brother asked.

– Because if I’m not here, I’ll need one of you to bottle carbonate it.

– Why won’t you be here?

– I will be. This is just a back-up. Plan B. B for beer. Right, you can go now. I’ve got things to do.

And off we went, out of the brewery and into the daylight.

We weren’t called on for carbonating duties, but we were press-ganged into being an audience for the next phase.

Four weeks later we (my brother, my sister and I) were back in brewery central, watching as our father decanted the beer from the dustbin into bottles, using a yellowing transparent rubber hose.

We watched the beer run into the bottle and fill it. We then watched the process again. And again. And so on, for twelve bottles. Our father then pressed plastic caps onto the bottles and then put all of the bottles into a wooden rack he’d fixed to the inside of the summer house door.

– Right. That’s the first batch of Dougie’s Home Brew carbonating, he said happily. Now, I don’t want any of you reprobates coming out here at night in order to illicitly sample it. Understand?

We all said we understood, and we all promised not to drink the beer. it was an easy promise to make and keep as there was no chance any of us would risk drinking the foul brew.

As it turned out, no one got to drink the beer, which was probably a good thing.

One sunny afternoon, my father opened the brewery door and all of the bottle tops popped off the bottles that were in the rack with loud bangs and twelve geysers of home-made beer simultaneously spurted across the garden. The force of the spurts pushed the door wide open.

– Oh, damn and blast it, my father said, as he watched the beer soak into the ground.

– The lawn’ll suffer for that, my brother said.

– What, from all of the sugar in the beer? my sister asked.

– No.

– What then?

– Because an entire generation of worms has just been totally annihilated, my brother said quietly.

 

*

 

My Father’s Garden: Summer House and Brewery

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)

 

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