Elderflower is the smell of my birthday, of the end of May and bank holidays and praying for sun and getting rain or, (better or worse?), sultry, fractious heat.
They're wellies hot, sticking to bare skin – and nettle stings a maddening rash across your knees. Plastic bags and secateurs and – 'if you could just try – try to reach that branch and bend it – yes', and iridescent yellow pollen staining my hands and earwigs and tiny insects too small to identify and the heady heady anticipation of that smell suspended in cordial.
Blooms shaken clean and steeping in a sugary witches brew – that scent, that scent! Strained into empty wine bottles, labels doctored – anticipation blooming. See a summer of champion desserts and false modesty like the Good Housekeeping Institute given life when we know, really, you'll use it to cut cocktails, muddled with lemon balm: a green and – honestly – indescribable scent.
Leftovers (purposefully so) dipped in loose batter, fried in two inches of oil on his parents' AGA. Dusted with cinnamon sugar – so juicy, as sweet as any fruit, encased in frothy fried yummy. We crunch; we suck the flowers from the stems.
And now, at the tail-end of the October, final bottle drained, it seems like the final admission of Autumn. Flavours are different, deeper; branches bare and the world turned brown. I mix the last few drops with a fresh squeeze of lemon. It’s the last taste of Summer.