Michaelmas

On the by-pass the blackberries are small and shrivelled. They’re no use for gathering.  It’s just as well, because Michaelmas Day has passed. That was yesterday and I read somewhere that after Michaelmas Day the devil gets into blackberries and they are not fit to eat. An enjoyable legend. It occurs to me though that the berries would be past their best anyway by September 29th.  When we lived in London we had a long garden which ended in a steep railway embankment.  In my nimble, middle years, every August I would climb over the wire fence  and happily batter my way through the undergrowth to pick pounds and pounds of ripe, juicy blackberries. As the autumn approached I would gather apples from the old trees on my side of the fence – remnants of a long forgotten 19th century orchard, and Mrs L would stew them, or I would brew wine or cider. We have a crab apple tree here in my garden in Oxfordshire but this year it has had virtually no fruit. It’s been a strange  year for weather. There are neatly farmed farms as far as the eye can see, here, in Oxfordshire. I thank God for them, and for the wonderful views across them to the distant hills. The waysides have all the wild flowers and fruits that I had in my own back garden in London. I miss my weeds a bit – the weeds which proliferated in our little patch of suburban N.3.  It’s not quite so easy to gather nature’s bounty here, where nature is rightly organised and, to an extent, disciplined. But I won’t be sentimental. What a magic, thatched England is all around. And what delight there was in the Food Festival which took over our High Street on Michaelmas Day: awnings, crowds, colour, busy stalls, local produce, bustle, the town hall and timber-framed buildings.  I’ll settle for here – an understatement – and there are people who could tell me where, today, hidden by ancient footpaths, there have been blackberries aplenty, and in the streams there are crayfish to catch.

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4 Responses to Michaelmas

  1. Marvelous post (as are all of them, to be sure)! We had wild blackberries on my grandfather’s land – and the idea of that openness that is now long gone is a matter I consider often: nair a bit, to my thinking, of un-owned land anywhere on the planet.

    Not quite the same, but a similar emptiness, to the thinking…but what memoir and memory can keep alive remains (as the commercial says) ‘priceless…’

  2. lleweton says:

    Thank you very much, Valerie. Apologies about the long intervals between the posts. I think you understand the reason. L

  3. churchmouse says:

    Our crab apple tree didn’t bear fruit this year, either.

    The blackberries are still along the railway lines in north London, by the way. Seems, though, as only graffiti artists have been able to master getting onto the embankments these days.

  4. lleweton says:

    Yes, it’s a bad year for fruit, and the usually prolific crab apple tree outside our local health centre is bare. I’ve noticed too that hips and haws and other berries are relatively few around here, in Oxfordshire. Country folk lore says that plentiful berries indicate a cold winter. But we’re told by meteorologists, I believe, that we’re going to have a cold winter anyway. We’ll see. As to graffiti, whenever I travelled by train into one of the big railway terminuses and saw the spray paint coverings of the brickwork in the cuttings as we entered the suburbs of Greater London, my mood took a dip. Thanks for your comment CM.

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