"Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot."
And that's all I remember. Sure, I could look up the rest, but the reason I remember any of the poem is because I recited it in the Arts Festival at my prep school a loooong time ago.
For some reason, I've always remembered those opening few lines, and I get them stuck in my head at this time of year, every year, without fail.
We're lucky to have loads of blackberry brambles at the bottom of our garden, and I adore going down there at the end of the summer to pick them. I always have done, and I'm sure I always will. Early autumn is my favourite time of the year.
I find blackberry-picking very therapeutic - maybe because it's something I've always done.
Yesterday, I ventured down past the still-ripening plums, damsons, pears and apples in our garden, empty punnet in hand, not knowing what I'd find on the blackberry bushes. Nearly an hour later, I was still there, picking away.
It seems to me that the plumpest, juiciest, sweetest blackberries are always the best-hidden and the hardest to reach. I genuinely think that's a metaphor for life. In order to get to those beauties, you have to dodge wasps and nettles (always wear full-length trousers and top!), and practice your best ballerina arabesque, all while trying not to fall over or spill any blackberries in your punnet. It's a challenge.
Wild blackberries may not look as perfect as their supermarket counterparts, but they're so much better. When you find - as my mum would say - a beezer, it's just sensational. The best ones are glossy black and just slip off the plant - if you have to pull too hard, it's not ripe enough.
One of the biggest challenges of blackberry picking, as far as I'm concerned, is not eating them all as you go. When you get one of those super-ripe ones that just falls apart in your fingers as you pull it off the bramble though, what can you do? You've just got to eat that baby.
My punnet was already brimming full before I'd even picked them all, so naturally I just carried on, munching as I went.
With sticky fingers covered in juice and nettle stings all over my right hand and wrist (it was worth it), I carefully returned to the house, feeling jolly pleased with the fruits (HA!) of my labour. Tragically, I tripped and dropped a couple but at least I didn't spill them all. Now that would have been catastrophic.
For as long as I can remember, mum has made blackberry and apples crumbles, both fruits from the garden, for pudding after our Sunday roast dinners. For a long time I even believed the lie that the custard was home-grown on a custard tree too. What an idiot. Served with vanilla ice cream too, it was delicious. The ultimate home comfort for me.
As we have so many, we're going to freeze a load of our blackberries so they don't go to waste, and that way we can have them at the ready to be popped into cakes, crumbles or just eaten by themselves. Yum!