Story telling from Australia
I bought a punnet of blackberries in the supermarket this week, and anyone who grew up in the country knows how wrong that is.
Blackberries should be picked, not paid for.
They should be dropped into a bucket by sticky fingers running with juice. And the price? Arms scratched by brambles; lips, tongue, teeth and fingers stained vivid purple in witness to the successful forage.
Seeing ten berries in a plastic tray, arranged in a single layer with a padded lining to catch any drips, brought back a flood of childhood memories.
‘Blackberrying’ was an exciting day out in the village where I grew up.
We would cycle down the muddy lanes in search of ripe fruit, standing on tiptoe to reach the biggest, fattest, ripest berries that never made it as far as the bucket. When the bags and buckets were finally as full as the picker’s belly, it was time to go home, fingers bright as a Bishop’s robes.
The messy growth of brambles could be seen along railway cuttings and steep banks, over stone walls and old fences, and on any patch of ground left untended for too long. They were at their most prolific in hedgerows, those glorious microcosms of biodiversity circling the fields that dot the landscape all across the UK.
I suspect brambles aren’t so common in Australia, where paddocks can be the size of entire English villages.
‘Down-the-muddy-lanes’ was an actual place, just like ‘over-the-hilly-fields’. The words were run together and spoken as if they constituted a single noun, and we all knew the exact location without any further explanation. It’s only now, years later, that I realise how descriptive those place names were. There were others that I’ve since forgotten, for the path that led past the church, another for the lane that led over the stile and down to the river.
Who named those places? How many generations ago? Was it the travellers and gypsies who still live on the grounds of the old hat factory? Or did our parents name them to try and pin down their wayward children who roamed the fields and lanes without any supervision?
I don’t know. What I do know is that a small punnet of blackberries brought back such a flood of memories – all so happy and so vivid – that come autumn I intend to be picking blackberries, hopefully with a bucket, a bicycle and CC.