Sunday, 9 September 2007

Indigo and the Bloody Great Blackberry Bush (and Other Stories)

I'm pretty sure I have some sort of mental problem. No need for sarcasm; it involves me getting bizarre concepts in my head and deluding myself that they're good ideas. Blackberry picking is one of those things. In my head, I had some Milly-Molly-Mandy -esque vision of myself in a summer dress with a basket on my arm, skipping down paths in the afternoon sunshine and plucking ripe, dark berries from bushes.

We used to go blackberry picking near where I live when we were little. We'd all get a bag and get as many as possible, and my mum would give us useful hints such as 'don't pick the ones near the ground in case a dog's weed there' (not very helpful as we were all about two feet high and couldn't reach any higher). This may sound idyllic (what, you mean dog piss doesn't appeal to you?) but in fact it was more a berry-picking frenzy than a peaceful afternoon in the fresh air; if we got enough my mum would make blackberry crumble icecream. Obviously we took it very seriously.

Anyway, it's been a few years since then, so a few weeks ago I decided to don my metaphorical summer dress and recreate my childhood. Perhaps this might be more successful if I tried it now, when the blackberries are actually out, but in my defence I had it on very good authority from my mother that there were some berries around. Last time I listen to her.

The first problem I encountered was a serious lack of bushes: someone seemed to have come along and chopped them all down. Right, I thought, probably someone's seen people skipping around picking blackberries and the council have come along to prevent this sort of merry-making (the council are a bit that way inclined round here). Ha! Try and stop me, killjoys!

My skipping picked up a bit after this discovery, to spite them.

The second problem was that time must have dimmed my childhood memories, because I'd forgotten one crucial berry-picking factor: blackberries grow on bramble bushes.

Well! I thought; at least my summer dress was only metaphorical and I was wearing my manly welly boots. I strode through the undergrowth, undeterred!

I then discovered that my mother had basically lied to me when she said the blackberries were out. What she really meant was that THIS blackberry was out.

That was the first one I came across (I had been striding through the undergrowth for about fifteen minutes then, and was starting to get a bit desperate). It was also the last one I came across, until about twenty minutes striding later. At this point striding had lost its novelty. As had the undergrowth. In fact I was starting to empathise with whoever had chopped down half the bushes in the first place. If I'd had an axe I'd have hacked them down myself.

No, I'd have hacked them down with a pair of scissors by that point.

...Actually, if I'd had a bloody nail file I'd have taken the bastards on.
(It was raining by this point, by the way. Just dropping that one in there).

Clutching my bag (complete with its two lonely blackberries) I decided that the time had come for a change of tactics. No more scanning the hedgerows; I tramped along, picked out the biggest, nastiest, prickliest bushes I could find and waded into the middle of them - I'd reached the conclusion that this was (typically) the only place that there were actually any berries to be found.

I don't remember Milly Molly Mandy ever having to do that.

Anyway, this led to success! ... Albeit not a lot of success. My mum's blackberry crumble ice cream calls for 500g of berries (and she usually makes double quantites), and once I'd staggered home clutching these and swearing under my breath, I found I had about 250g.

Yeah, well. It wasn't really ice cream weather, anyway.

You'll see these babies reincarnated soon, you have my word ^__^


Helene said...

ah the joys of blackberry picking on the side of the road...Not!! Thanks for a fun trip down memory lane! I am sure you put that treasure to good use!

Jackie said...

Aww, Milly Molly Mandy! I found your blog recently, on Tastespotting. I have aspirations for a blog of my own, but I'm a lazy student with far too much dissertation to write...maybe I'll get round to it soon!

Jack said...

This was such a cute blog post. I was smiling while reading your whole post. You are not strange but beautiful. I think blackberry picking is really great.