Slim pickings


It was a fine breezy autumn day, so we decided to pick some blackberries. This was despite last year’s warning from a warty-nosed old woman dressed in black, whom we met whilst blackberrying on a quiet country lane.

“You shouldn’t pick them after the first frost,” she cackled, “ ‘cause a witch has pissed on them. Ahahaa…ha…ha…ha”.

The prospect of an hour’s fresh air and productive employment even lured teenage son away from his computer screen, to join Mrs R and I.

I gathered my blackberry picking equipment: plastic tubs, one stout leather glove, thorn proof jacket and walking stick. We set off to our secret bramble hedge, on a hill overlooking the distant sea and the nearby largest gas terminal in the UK.

Like a well-drilled team we sprang into action. Mrs R meticulously scoured the hedge from knee to shoulder height. Teenage son loped on ahead to find the low-hanging fruit. And I used my walking stick to pull out-of-reach bramble stems until I could grab them in my gloved hand and pluck the berries with my ungloved other hand.

It was tedious. Earlier this month we had gathered an abundance of juicy specimens. But now the hedge was sparsely populated. Mindful of the old lady’s warning, I tasted a few. The witches had not passed by.

Gradually my plastic tub began to fill with purple fruit. It didn’t fill as fast as Mrs R’s tub, but I was going for more challenging branches with my walking stick and glove.

The trouble is that when you are wearing a thick glove and holding a walking stick hooked around a springy bramble stem, it is sometimes difficult to keep a tight hold of a plastic tub half full of blackberries.

Just as I was considering transferring my hard-earned pickings to the ‘mother ship’ big plastic container with a lid, a branch sprang back with thorny precision across the back of my ungloved hand. And I dropped my plastic tub.

The berries disappeared into the long grass.

This amused both Mrs R and teenage son considerably.

Because I have a calm and stoical nature I shrugged off this setback. Licked the bleeding scratch on the back of my hand and cheerfully set about refilling my now empty container.

Time passed. One by one the rare purple gems plopped into the tub as I stretched and lunged in and out of the prickly bushes.

“There are lots here,” called out Mrs R, as she extracted half a tub of my dropped berries from a patch of long grass.

“Ho, ho!” I chortled.

About twenty minutes later I dropped all my blackberries again. This time they fell into a deep and gloomy patch of nettles. I did not find this amusing.

I started to fill my empty plastic tub for a third time.

“Shall we go home?” Inquired Mrs R as she strolled past with a brimming container. “I’ve probably got enough for a few jars of bramble jelly.”

I looked at my pitiful harvest. Just about enough for a small pie. If I added some apples.

6 Responses to “Slim pickings”

  1. 1 Andy, at Aviva Perth

    Is there some confused, or old, terminology going on here? You’re collecting blackberries to make bramble jelly! Shouldn’t it be collecting brambles (as they’re known here in Scotland) or making blackberry jelly?

    • Andy – blackberries grow on brambles. They are the fruit of the bramble bush. Just like dates are the fruit of the palm tree. And coconuts. Therefore it is called Bramble Jelly.

      Blackberry Jelly wouldn’t taste the same.

  2. Let me get this straight, you are sufficiently familiar with witches’ piss that you can recognise it’s absence on a blackberry?
    On second thoughts, i’m not that curious

  3. Drew – Think cheap lager. That’s about it.

  4. 5 John

    As a child I frequently used to eat blackberries taken straight from the bush, that was until I saw the ones my mother had put on top of the warm Aga in preparation for making Blackberry Vinegar and was shocked at the amount of grubs and the like that crawled out of them.

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