Tag Archives: winter

Blackberry picking

17 Aug

We went blackberry picking, you and I

The summer after that winter

Where we had been glad to be together

Because the gas bills were so high


We went blackberry picking and saw

More butterflies than ever before

Or since, and there were more fruits

Than men in the city wearing suits


We went blackberry picking, earlier than most

But the weather had been so good and we

Could already see the apples swelling on the tree

So we took our chances, got lucky


We went blackberry picking, with no other aim

Than to fill our boxes and come home again

I took that absurd wicker basket

And you brought the Sonnets


We went blackberry picking, at season’s close

After the Fourth Ice Age and the Great Heatwave

In a temperate August, when the rough winds ceased

And our toes had just about unfreezed.


We went blackberry picking in the local woods

Where the weather first brought us together.

I swore later that I saw you first,

But you said it was you that saw me.


We went blackberry picking, that autumn, too

But there wasn’t much fruit to be had

We made apple pie from Waitrose instead

Which overall, wasn’t too bad.


We went blackberry picking this summer as one

And came home again apart

And the wine-blue berries were nearly as merry

As the hole in my heart was dark


The First Pimms of the Summer

25 Apr

The first Pimms of Summer 2013 struck on Tuesday evening. Actually, the first two Pimms. Not only did the dusty and slightly sticky bottle consigned to the cupboard with a sigh last year make it out again, but I even managed to dredge up some ice lost in the depths of the freezer and to forage some orange segments, cucumber and even a lone strawberry. I love a bit of fruit in my Pimms. I love how a drink can go from a humble spirit-and-mixer to a Glorious Incarnation of All that is Wonderful about Our Great Nation AND get healthier at the same time. I mean, seriously.

Perhaps you think I’m romanticising this a bit and maybe you’re right. I read an article in The Times this afternoon – which you too can read if you’ve a subscription, here: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/article3747972.ece . It warns us to lower our expectations about summer, because it’s always disappointingly less halcyon than we are prepared to admit when the first rays of sun peep out from their 6-month long cloud cover. Which is valid. It is. Sometimes by a considerable degree.

I think back to last year at this point, when we had delicious weather from March until mid-May and halfway through my exams the rain came. The rain didn’t stop until the Olympics. I had been dreaming of how I was going to spend life after finals for – well, the whole of my degree. Punting in the sun. Champagne on the lawns. Excessive amounts of Pimms over croquet; with a book; at the pub – wherever. Crisp G&Ts at garden parties. Boozy picnics. Outfits that were not designed with the library in mind. Glorious sunshine from 11am, rising and then descending to balmy evenings and warm breezes so one could sit on the quad outside the bar and talk into the small hours. Oh, to be a post-finalist! I thought. Then summer will truly be all I ever wished it to be. The months leading up to the Weeks of Doom, during which I turned into a gibbering pasty-faced creature in leggings and woolly jumpers subsisting almost exclusively on tea and whatever deals on chocolate were to be had that week, only made my dreams more beautiful.

But, as I said, it rained. It rained and rained and rained. It rained on the day I finished exams, a relentless miserable driving rain that melted my paper hat and made the confetti bleed into my white shirt. When I got back to college to have the customary buckets of water thrown over me (yes, that’s a thing) my shoes were already just about ruined. A kind soul had presented me with a bottle of fizz and a can of G&T immediately I had left the exam halls and I ended up in my room with these, soaking wet and shivering.


In my imagination, this was the point where I would don my finest summer dress and go and lie triumphantly in the Fellow’s Garden, where all non-finalists would look at me in awe for having survived. As it was, I moped in my room. The rain lashed the windows. My roommate took pity on me and dragged me to the pub and for the day, we put things to rights. But the final week of term continued much in this vein.

We had one nice day before it was time to leave – we wisely took full advantage of it and spent the afternoon illegally drinking Moet in the Botanic Gardens. It wasn’t exactly warm, but we managed to convince ourselves it would do, and by the time we were due to meet our tutor for a goodbye drink, we were all so sloshed that the temperature was of little significance.


The complete dashing of my aspirations for a hedonistic post-finals life was, I am fairly sure, one of the reasons it took me so long to get over leaving and to get over all the other disappointments that came with it.

Summer is psychologically important. Obviously, it’s great that sunshine means that crops grow and flowers bloom and fruit ripens. Those things are good. We need those. But we also need a clear break with the relentlessly dismal features of winter. We need there to be a few weeks every year where the smells of barbecues drift along village roads, where people play cricket on greens, where tree-climbing and picnicking and butterfly-spotting are legitimate days out. Swimming in outdoor pools! Freckly noses! Flipflops and clashing toenail varnish! ICE CREAM VANS!

Our brains need seasonal differentiation in order to cope with the idea of progression. If seasons are static or seamless, we feel like we’re stuck, too. Humans have this weird mental tic about ‘new’ things. Novelty, novelty, novelty! Our brains scream, all the time – but also, familiarity, familiarity, please. Seasons provide both. And as summer feels *so* novel, with its sunshine and warmth and flowers and loveliness after months and months of bleakness, it’s that much more covetable. I start mentally preparing for summer from about March. This year, I’ve physically started preparing for summer from – the end of April. I should point out that this is by no means a record.

There’ll be another Pimms on the cards soon enough, I hope. If it’s not Pimms, it’ll be cider. There’s another good summery drink. But I’ll spare you my extensive feelings on that subject. More from me soon! X

NB – a few hours after I first drafted this, I can confirm there has since been more Pimms. Whatever. I’ve been celebrating.