July 2013


Thunder rumbled off to the west of me as I crouched in the gooseberry bush.
The heatwave left all the green leaves yellow,
And all the juicy berries just berries.
I plucked red and green gooseberries as the air smelt of forgotten rain.
The bush occasionally stabbed me; the stealer.
My arms and legs brushed nettles; spectators crying thief.

Surrounded by family I sat with bowls and scissors.
I topped and tailed millions of berries as life unfolded.
Cousins laughed together and made up stories.
Granny and Grandpa passed out biscuits while the mothers weren’t watching,
And I soaked it all up and smiled as I sat with my berries and scissors.

The boiling berries were rolling as bed and story time approached.
I balanced the jam plate crinkle test and the hungry caterpillar.
The set point was reached and the hot jars filled before bedtime.
I promised the little man gooseberry jam on his breakfast toast,
But all he wanted was the now; another story, then one more, then one more….

I sealed the lids and my mind drifted far away from now.
I thought of cold dark winter mornings.
Of the days and nights distant from the summer sun,
I thought of porridge breakfasts with stolen gooseberries.
I looked at the the rich dark juicy red jam,
And I hoped that all these memories would be the warmth to see us through the winter.

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It is a beautiful thing to wander into the garden first thing in the morning. In this wonderful summer heat it is a joy to have a quick look for ripe strawberries and raspberries to nibble and listen to the birds. Unfortunately I have some competition. The little man has now taken it upon himself to wander into the vegetable patch and pick the fruit. The raspberries are his favourite. There are two problems here. The first problem is that he must be watched like a hawk to ensure he does not eat things he should not. I am so glad I got rid of the yew tree so long ago. The other problem is that he picks ripe and unripe alike. The ripe ones he eats and makes approving noises about. The unripe ones he declares “needs more red”, and tosses them over his shoulder in a trail of destruction.

Then there is the mythological squirrel. Many moons ago our best plum tree was stripped in one afternoon and I surmised, with no evidence other than intuitive deduction, that it was squirrels. The lovely Sharon thought I was crazy and declared that the only squirrels around the cottage are the ones running around inside my head. Running around eating plums I suppose.

A few months ago we were teasing out a conversation from the little man trying to reinforce his animal recognition. We were running through the animals he saw that day; a wee spider, the sheeps (his own mis-plural) in the field, the chickens; the buzzy bees. I tried to tell him they were bumble bees but we just got into an argument were he said, “NO, BUZZY bees!” Then I said, “no, bumble bees.”

“NO, BUZZY bees!”
“no, bumble bees.”
“NO, BUZZY bees!”
“no, bumble bees.”
“NO, BUZZY bees!”
“no, bumble bees.”
“NO, BUZZY bees!”
“Ok, buzzy bees.”

Then in the role call of animals seen that day he dropped in, “…….and a squirrel.” When pressed further on this matter he simply stated, in a normal matter of fact way, “yes, a grey squirrel in the garden.” The lovely Sharon refused to believe him, and assumed it was just his imagination. The geek in me pointed out that we have never told him about the difference between red and grey squirrels, and most of the squirrels in his books are the classic red.

A week or two ago I could not help but chuckle when I spotted a grey squirrel run down the lane. I told the lovely doubting Sharon but she still had an expression of mixed belief, and the expression betrayed that she was beginning to believe, but still wondered if it was just one of the squirrels escaping from my mind.

Today the lovely Sharon joined us. She called me in to the kitchen with excited whispered shouts. “Look! Look!” And there he was sitting on the wall in the vegetable garden calmly listening to the birds and feeling the early morning sun as he munched a nice bright red strawberry.