September: So Berry, Berry Dangerous

My heart is pounding, my mouth is dry and my legs feel wobbly. If it were this evening instead of this morning I’d pour myself a glass of wine.

I’ve just come close to mowing down an old couple.

To be fair to me, this happens every September. And it’s the same old couple.

It’s the couple who park their 2005 Toyota Yaris with the stickers in the rear window announcing their relationship with Jesus and Classic FM, around bends in the lanes while they pick blackberries. Perhaps you’ve seen them too.

And before you start, it’s not my driving that’s at fault here. I have lived, mostly reluctantly, in the countryside for more than twenty years. I have been driving down roads slightly narrower than the width of a tractor forever and I am respectful of them. I drive slowly.

And yet, this couple manage to make themselves entirely invisible until you are within three feet of them.

Every year, I am forced to swerve violently to avoid them. Every year they turn and smile as if they hadn’t just come within a whisker of finally meeting Jesus face to face.

And this is what I struggle with about September. Blackberries.

I get it. The whole pick-your-own thing. I see the hedgerows bulging with fruit and I am transported back to all those Famous Five books and Milly-Molly-Mandy stories. Who wouldn’t want to relive those experiences of Little Friend Susan as she and MMM enjoy an everyday adventure in rural England?

But that rural England, so brilliantly depicted by Joyce Lankester Brisley, belonged to 1928. Well before Toyota had invented the Yaris.

And now there are many, many more Toyota Yarises and indeed other, vehicles on the road. Which makes blackberrying a potentially lethal pursuit.

I require more protection from reckless pensioners with a taste for crumble and a death wish. A warning triangle perhaps. Hi -Vis jackets. A wind sock bobbing above the hedge in question. Anything to indicate foraging in progress.

Blackberrying is a clear and present danger. And things are only going to get worse. Post Brexit we’ll all be feeding ourselves from hedgerows so we might as well develop an etiquette around it.

There are plenty of blackberries in hedgerows accessible by tramping through fields. Leave the berries in the hedges along narrow country lanes to the birds of the air, right? Or pick them in the dead of night.

In September my husband and I tramp through the fields near our home, dog in tow, and bags in hand. Once we are safely off road the blackberrying begins in earnest.

I have tried to encourage my sons to join us but have yet to succeed. Recent strategies have involved painting the activity as an apprenticeship: ” Mark my words, fruit picking will be a graduate job once we’ve left the EU! Only those with obvious berry staining will be considered!”

Hasn’t worked.

I’ve tried the economic argument: “I don’t understand how two students can’t appreciate free food! It would be a different story if the hedgerows were filled with pesto ravioli!”

And then I resort to the sort of line my mother would have taken with me, “Inner city children would give their eye teeth to be able to pick blackberries!”

My words fall on deaf ears. I am accused of aspiring to be the original Bonne Maman, monolith of quality preserve production. I am reminded that neither of them likes blackberry crumble. Or blackberry jam. And calling it a compote won’t work either.  Neither would they ever want, with the emphasis on ever, to drink home made blackberry liqueur. No matter how hard the Brexit.

Message received.

My freezer is now filled with bags of frozen berries picked by my own hand. My boys will never understand the satisfaction of walking past the frozen fruit (£2.39) in Lidl’s.

Thanks to my efforts, the money saved can go directly towards more wine. Which I’ll bloody need if that Yaris is still parked up later.





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