Blackberry time

Fr Blackberry Ashton Cross

In recent years, the very word ‘Blackberry’ has become synonymous with a certain type of ultra-important, busy-busy lifestyle in which one just has to be on call 24/7.

But it wasn’t always thus.

For me, the blackberry has always first and foremost been a fruit, a distant and more feral relative of the strawberry and raspberry.

Whilst strawberries grew on dainty little plants and raspberries were similarly tame in their natural habitat, blackberries were always the wild ones. Growing randomly in the hedgerows, blackberries would sit there in all their dark, plump majesty, blinking in the early autumn sunshine and daring you to pick them.

But for the unprepared, this seemingly simple task could be fraught with danger as adjacent thorns and nettles would be on hand to cut and sting any exposed skin as they sought to protect their bounty.

‘Going blackberrying’ was an annual pilgrimage in our household when I was growing up. All the family would grab a plastic bowl and head off along local country footpaths in search of fruit and hoping that our destination had not already been discovered and denuded by a previous group of foragers.

We would inevitably return home, skin scratched to buggery, but with a handsome haul of blackberries that would then be boiled up, heavily sweetened and converted into jam, pies and crumbles.

On occasions, they would even be reunited with their tamer berry cousins as part of a rather decadent ‘Summer pudding’.

Having spent a childhood associating blackberries with dappled autumn sun, bountiful hedgerows and delicious puddings, you can perhaps understand my frustration with the Blackberry manufacturers as they (temporarily) managed to sully those memories.

But now it seems I have come full circle.

My last Blackberry has been consigned to the ‘outdated technology’ box, along with my old Sony Mini Discman and original heavyweight iPod. And in its place, I have restored ‘the blackberry’ to its true place in my affections.

On Saturday, I went with my own family on a walk onto the South Downs near Lewes and there we found hedgerow after hedgerow laden with fruit. Ripe, juicy and free.

My delight at rediscovering this long forgotten, yet simple pleasure of my youth was further enhanced by the sight of my own kids eagerly launching themselves into the brambles to fill their little bowls. Delight tempered somewhat as they emerged again with blood oozing from their legs, but hey they filled their bowls and that’s what counts.

I hope that last weekend may represent the start of their own blackberrying careers and that this will provide them with something rather more enduring and pleasurable than a certain piece of mobile technology I could mention.

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3 thoughts on “Blackberry time

  1. As in Marcel Proust definitive novel “In search of lost time” where small events excite the senses to a greater recall of something in ones past this blog conjures up the memories surrounding my mothers glorious blackberry and apple pies and the sensuous times that surrounded these delicious moments. Those long Indian summer days that seemed to go on forever and the harvesting-in spent behind the bailing machine. The sweetened smell of over-ripe apples ready for crushing in to cider as rough as it could be, but the best drink ever when hot-pokered on a cold and wet winter’s eve. More home thoughts from abroad come flooding back – what a pleasant interlude. Thanks for the memory jerk Sean.

    • Absolutely right. Blackberrying has great nostalgic memories. However, after years of scratched and stung legs, plus scrabbling after dropped bowlfuls of the best fruits, I have now entered the era of ‘To heck with frustrating nostalgia’ and set forth with jeans, wellies, long sleeves, stick to pull branches nearer and bag/basket to hang safely on the arm. Practicality superimposed on nostalgia. Just add a dog to gobble the dog-height berries (how does she manage to single out only the black ones?) Last night we shared the last of last year’s blackberry and apple crumble with some friends we hadn’t seen since last year, so I’m now off for the 2012 expedition up the Southdowns Way to replenish the freezer – but I shall also have my faithful B——–y with me as a further practicality in case of emergency need!

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