Monday, 24 September 2007

Blackberrying bliss

On Saturday, My Boy and I picked blackberries and sloes in warm sunshine in our old stamping ground in Copford, while younger daughter went to Drama Group and elder daughter sat in car reading trash teen mags.

It was lovely to be back - I find I'm missing those woods and fields most of all now that autumn leaves are starting to fall - though difficult to believe that a whole year had gone by since we last filled our baskets in the same spot. And once again, I reflected on how strange it is that it should be my ten-year-old son, alone in my family, who so completely understands and wholeheartedly participates in these hedgerow foragings.

For me, picking fruit in the autumn sun is one of the finest, simplest and most delightful pleasures in life. I've recognised this since I was a very young child and my parents and sister would comb the (long-since bulldozed) copses around Odiham for blackberries and then visit my grandparents to climb their Bramley trees and harvest tray upon blue cardboard tray of fragrant, waxy apples.

The heady mix of smells, the buzzing insects, the sweet pain of bramble-scored arms and the throb of nettle stings - above all the satisfaction of watching the level in the big basket rising at each tipping of the plastic bowl. Bliss. Absolute bliss. I could spend hours and hours amongst the brambles (and often do) but on Saturday we had only 50 minutes. We gathered enough blackberries for a couple of crumbles plus some to put with sloes and elderberries for a batch of Hedgerow Jam.

The boiled-up sludge for the latter sat in the kitchen for a day or two, where I gave it a quick press through the sieve each time I passed, sending another stream of intoxicating purple juice into the big pan. Last night I boiled up the resulting six pints with some sieved apples, added the sugar and, eventually, after a l-o-n-g wait, at 1.10 am, it was ready to bottle up. No frilly lids, no labels - just two huge jars full and a dish for the remainder, which we spread with butter on fresh-baked rolls for breakfast this morning.

Back at my desk, my day brightened up considerably when I visited Scottish artist Ken Bushe's website , after Rachel sent me the link. How lovely to see such a well-designed artist's site, which sets off his work so well. He shares his painting methods and has an interesting collection of links and his biography page is rather entertaining, too. It is Ken's sky and cloud paintings which I particularly admire, though I love the 'Trees in Winter' sketch on the Commissions page.

Well, better get back to work now, I suppose. Usual round of stuff to work on this week - the good, the bad and the positively ugly - and none of it making my fortune.
Ho hum.

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