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FOOD FOR FREE by Carol Wain

Arts Richmond

Online - 26 August 2020

FOOD FOR FREE by Carol Wain

Food for Free (in Covid Summer '20)

In summer heat, grass parched like straw, the fruit hangs low:
In clumps of blackberries, raspberries, ripening grape on vine.
 Invited to come and pick, to clear a shielder's glut of berries,
         Under long lockdown as close family stays away,
 I stand, hatted and sleeved against the sun and prickles,
And turn, seeing full clusters of swelling fruit, ready to drop...  

  Into my hand - staining my fingers with sweet, dark juice
   As I ease off each berry and it plops into a plastic bowl.
       Moving slowly along rows of full fat blackberries,
    Then pink, plushy raspberries hidden under their leaves.
Picking my way through scattered windfall apples, some bruised -
          I imagine doing this for hours, if it were paid labour.

      What's fun for an afternoon's free pickings is not so good
          When done day in, day out, to keep the family fed -
     Backbreaking too, with bags of heavy apples off the trees
       Or bending to dig carrots, potatoes, parsnips in the sun.
Years back I loved the strawberry market, "Pick Your Own",
Filling our boxes with red, rich sweetness for a few pounds. 

    My punnets full, I finish, say goodbye and then depart:
    No cost, no post-pick brew as we are social distancing.
   Dreaming of country hedges where I rambled as a child,
       Finding sweet berries among the butterflies and bees;
  September time, wild mushrooms, avoiding those poison cups.
I travel home by bus to enjoy my blackberries, self-picked, for tea. 

                                                                      by Carol Wain


[Back story:  I was invited by a "shielding" couple from church to pick blackberries and raspberries in their well kept garden in Twickenham, and take a few windfalls. Just let myself in and pick at the end of the garden. I took a water bottle, and a sunhat for the heat. The fruit tastes wonderful, hot or cold, with ice cream. Another friend asked me if I'd made any jam ... but no.]

Food for Free

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