A couple of weeks ago the weather was a bit wild on the way home: Oxfordshire invariably gets the rest of the country’s leavings, for which this time I was grateful. Merthyr Tydfil very manfully stepped in front of the oncoming westerly bullet approaching the Welsh marches, resulting in a roof blowing off a house and hitting a car.
Thanks to Merthyr, my journey home was merely: very windy indeed. Earlier in the day there’d been a brief (five seconds) power cut; a tree had also been torn up by its roots in Finstock, blocking one of my usual routes; these two events didn’t seem to be connected but you never know. I passed along a few narrow, high-hedged single tracks, and suddenly the wind seemed to cease, as I was in the double lee of both a hedge and also the eastern side of a hill.
It was here that I stopped to pick a few blackberries. Although there was a big commotion early in the year, as a mild early summer brought the first blackberry crop out in August, I’ve kept my tupperware dry. The first berries are always tart; the last berries watery and starting to mildew: September still remains the ideal month, although you might argue that climate change has made it earlier in the month since I berried for my parents’ wine experiments in my youth.
There was something eerie about the literal shelter from a storm; the unnaturally, unusually quiet road, its busy ingress blocked by the tree; the distance hiss and bang of windswept forest and timber; the rampant, unashamed gratis nature of the fruit in front of me. Take it all, blackberries say; if you can get past the thorns, pick your fill; trust in the hedges to provide, and by the end of September we’ve got approaching five kilogrammes of free fruit in the freezer, ready to be made into jam.
This, literally dropping from the trees, is nature’s bounty, available with a small amount of effort, trial and faith: it’s hardly any surprise that picking blackberries is possibly the closest I ever get to a religious experience.