Sunday, February 24, 2008

The pointy end

This morning I picked the blackberries that grow in the old convict cemetary just over the way. (It's worth living here, just to write that sentence.) When I stand there plucking the fruit from the thorns I have visions of brambles growing through the bones interred 150 years ago - it's not such a grim vision when you taste the sweetness while stopping in the sunshine.

I had thought to pick enough to make some jam but that was a plan doomed to failure. The whole process is so fiddly, the thorns so spikey, the labradoodle so greedy and sly (snuffling up the fruit from the basket while I was deep in the thicket), the kids so demanding (there's no explaining why these particular berries are destined for jam and not their bellies), that it would take me hours to gather enough. And, as much as I like blackberry jam, which is especially lovely eaten with cream on white bread, it's always going to be a distant second to eating the berries alone, outside in a field, glad of the sun that's warming up the first cold morning of the year. I'm not a peasant and I don't need to protect myself from scurvy and starvation in the long winter ahead so I'll gather and gobble them while I may and then enjoy the anticipation of next February.

And then I fell into the brambles. They really hurt. In an old book from my own and my mother's childhood, called At School with the Stanhopes (complete with boarding school, japes and sexually non-threatening but crush-worthy older brothers and teachers' husbands) there's a incident where they whole school takes off from conjugating French verbs and studying Georgian history to go blackberrying, so that they can learn the worthy art of jam making. The uppity girl is pushed into the brambles, which is presented as a bit of harmless fun. The way those thorns bite, more like serious assault, I think.

6 comments:

blue milk said...

What a delicious post! And that opening sentence, wow, I wish I could describe my neighborhood so romantically.

kate said...

We've got a 5 story derelict building a couple of doors up. It's got plenty of weeds but no berries. Doesn't have quite the romance of a 19th century cemetry...

Kris said...

Kate - one person's derelict building is another person's melancholic ruin ... Have you checked out the photos by Jim, from Sweet Juniper (www.sweet-juniper.com) - they proove that point. No blackberries is a shame, though.

bluemilk- writing that sentence was one of the those times when I stopped and thought, my life here is pretty good - a moment of clarity in an often unclear mind.

meggie said...

O the memories of picking blackberries!
I laughed at the sly greedy labradoodle! I had no idea a dog would love blackberries. Still, we never had a dog when we were kids.

Lost in a reverie... said...

Yum! Lovely post.
xxx

Gillian said...

. . . isn't that one of the weirder spaces of this neighborhood? I have some interesting notes on it I'll have to show you one day - will have to mental note the blackberry patch ;)