Autumn blackberries

Bramble28Aug12 © Angela Porter
Bramble © Angela Porter
5″ x 3″, pen and ink.

Plucking blackberries from hedgerows bursting with the deep purple-black fruits of the bramble are memories of childhood.

Taking care not to prick fingers on the thorns, or get clothing snagged and torn upon them either.  There were also the sticky burrs of goose-grass to avoid too.

It was all worth the hours of effort, however.  Blackberry and apple pie, blackberry crumble, bramble jelly, and the blackberry wine my father brewed (if he could steal any away).

Blackberries were frozen by the plastic gallon re-used ice-cream tub to be used for Sunday desserts through the winter months too.

All of these things created once the blackberries had been washed in salted water to bring out any maggots that had burrowed their way into the fruits.  If I caught sight of one single maggoty thing, I couldn’t eat any more of them, and eating them straight from the bramble was not an option for me.  It’s no wonder I’m a vegetarian!

A free harvest that I no longer take advantage of, but may manage to do so this year if I can pluck up the courage to go by myself in to the countryside to do this.

Yes, I do mean courage, as I’ve become a bit of a recluse once again, not going out into the world where there are other human beings to encounter me.  A long, personal story that is, but one I hope to change with time.  The gist is I’ve allowed myself to be hurt by other people over the past few years.  Things I was once involved with have gone by the by and I’ve not managed to replace these social activities with others.  Oh, I do go out.  I am involved in things, but the people I encounter are, generally, more acquaintances than anything else.  I still seek and search for a sense of belonging in this world.

Even as I think back to childhood blackberrying, I remember that I was often alone even though the rest of the family were there, all chatting and laughing and playing amongst themselves while I was generally excluded, unless it was to be the butt of someone’s joke.  Always funny for them…

Funny, the memories of blackberrying, and collecting bilberries, or whinberries as they are also called, are still ones of pleasure – the pleasure of the food produced as a result.  Bilberries are small, blueberries, native to Britain.

Folklore

There’s plenty of folklore surrounding the humble bramble and it’s fruits.

“Throughout much of Britain there was a widespread belief that blackberries should not be eaten after a certain date.” [Vickery]

This date may have be that of the first frost, as then they become the Devil’s fruit  and are not fit for humans to eat .

Michaelmas (29 September) or  Old Michaelmas (11 October)  relate to the biblical tale of  Lucifer being thrown out of heaven for his proud, covetous ways by Archangel Michael (Isaiah 14:12).  It is said that Lucifer landed in a bramble bush and cursed it, which is why people won’t eat blackberries after Michaelmas, saying variously that:

  • they have the Devil in them
  • the Devil peeps over the hedgerow and blasts them
  • so the Devil may have his share
  • the Devil spits on them

Hallowe’en (31 October) or All Saints’ Day (1st November) are also dates given as the cut off for blackberry consumption.  As well as the reasons given above, this date also relates to the following:

  • they have the witch in them
  • the witches have peed on them
  • on Hallowe’en the puca has crawled on the blackberries.

“From a scientific point of view, blackberries contain a high concentration of bitter tasting tannins which over time accumulate in the fruit. Old Michaelmas day falls late in the blackberry season making berries picked around this time very bitter. To make matters worse, as autumn arrives the weather becomes wetter meaning the fruit will contain more fungus spores. This will not improve the taste either.” [BBC Nature UK]

Brambles were sometimes planted, or placed, on graves, one belief being that they stopped the dead from walking.  Another reason is that they kept the sheep off the grave.

A superstition in Wales was “When thorns or brambles catch or cling to a girl’s dress, they say a lover is coming.” [Roud]

References:

BBC Nature UK, Nature folklore uncovered

Roud, Steve “The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland”, Penguin Reference, 2003

Vickery, RoyOxford Dictionary of Plant-lore”, Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford University Press, 1995

Super soup…

On Monday, as squeaky and non-existent as my voice was (and still is) I took a phone call from Abel and Cole, a company that delivers organic veg boxes (among other things) to your door.  I used to have boxes from them a number of years ago.   However, the delivery company (a big one) wrecked so many items of produce on so many occasions that I cancelled the boxes.  Not because I was disatisfied with them, not by a long shot, but because of the careless attitude of the delivery company.

Well, on Monday I started up a weekly order of a small fruit and veg box (£12.99, delivered) and it arrived today!  I also got a free cook book (which is full of meat/fish/poultry recipes so will be donated to a friend – I’m a vegetarian!).  My fourth box will be free if I remain with them.

The best thing of all about Abel and Cole is that you can choose to dislike foods, and also decline a particular choice for the week’s box as long as you do it by the deadline they set (for me it’s midnight on Monday into Tuesday).

Blooming marvellous!

So, my box arrived this morning, courtesy of their own van and driver.  In it were potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, broccoli, grapes, apples and bananas, all organic!

So, lunchtime, I ‘celebrated’ by making a soup.  Here’s what I did.  There’s enough here for 4 servings for starters or two servings for hungry people.

1.  Finely chop and onion and gently fry in butter in a saucepan.

2. Dice two carrots, one parsnip, one sweet potato and add to the pan and gently fry.

3.  Add a heaped teaspoon of mild curry paste and stir into the veggies.

4. Add some red split lentils (a generous handful), several finely chopped dried apricots, and chopped garlic (as much as you like) and stir to coat with the butter and spice mixture.

5. Add water so that the level is around 1″ above the veggies and lentils.  Bring to the boil.

6. Add some vegetable stock cubes or bouillon powder, salt and pepper to taste.

7.  Simmer until lentils are cooked (around 40 minutes).

I served this with some roasted garlic sour dough bread and butter.  The sour dough bread was a nice contrast to the sweet spiciness of the soup.

Even if say so myself, it was rather yummy and hit the right spot on a cold, wet day at home with me not feeling too good (still no voice, a cough and splutter to add to it too).

It was a nice way to celebrate completing my hypnotherapy essay!

Half term almost over … boo!

I spent the first half of the half-term week getting over ‘flu.  It took until Wednesday for me to feel even slightly alive, and until Thursday for me to feel like myself.

Wednesday saw my car pass it’s MOT with ‘flying colours’ – not a single advisory note, and just one bit of work that needed to be done before the MOT.  My bill was a massive £65 – which is a bit sarcastic as that’s the lowest bill I’ve had for a car that I own for a long time.  The Smart Car drained my resources frequently, but this battered, M-reg red Corsa is proving to be the most reliable and cheapest car to run (taking into account petrol, insurance, tax and servicing/repairs!  So a happy bunny, and even more so because the new mechanic is an absolute gem – thanks to my little sister Sara for recommending him.

Thursday was a weird day as I had to be interviewed as part of an inquiry into problems with a committee I’m a member of.  I’m not involved with the problems per se, but I am one of the witnesses to what occurred; not that I remember much as it was many months ago now.  So, we wait to see what happens as a result of the inquiry.

Friday saw a new shower fitted by a nice man from SWALEC at long last, but not without problems.  The main problem was that I couldn’t remember where the water stop cock was until water had sprayed over the bathroom and dripped through the ceiling downstairs and then my memory clicked in.  Everything else then went fairly smoothly.  After this, I had time to have a quick clean up before heading to Cardiff for an interview to start training as a hypnotherapist with Chrysalis.  That was easy, and though the nerves kicked in a little because it’s an unknown thing.  The actual interview wasn’t one really, more of a ‘this is what hypnotherapy is (I already knew that, but let them tell me again), I can see you have a lot of life experience (apparently important for any therapist), and do you want to ask any questions?’  It was a pleasant 30 mins or so.  I was told I could start the course the next day or wait until the next intake in the Spring.

Well, once I’ve made my mind up, I tend to do things as straight away as is possible, so I elected to start the course the very next day…

… and that’s how I spent yesterday! 10am to 5pm learning about the course, expectations, sorting out practice groups that meet outside of the monthly day courses, getting to know one another, and then actually experiencing and then practising a progressive muscle relaxation method.

The method was familiar to me as I use one very similar when I take a group of people for guided meditations on a Friday evening.  I cheated and didn’t use their script, but used my own … but I know I’ll have to follow more precisely in the future.  My partner was well pleased with the results, so that’s all that really, really matters.

I have a feeling I will instinctively know a lot of what is being taught, but the diploma will allow me to practice as a hypnotherapist, perhaps even start up a little business, which if it becomes successful and sustainable may allow me to change my career, even if only part-time.

I also have kind of decided that after this I’d like to do a degree in either psychology or forensic psychology and then use that to lead me to completely new pastures.  I’ve often thought about becoming a counsellor, but … there’s something that tells me not yet.  However, we’ll see!

I was totally drained in the evening.  It was a busy day, especially with so many people (26 including me and the tutor – Sue Preston).

I do plan to spend some time today completing another abstract artwork, that’s once I’ve sorted out all the notes from yesterday’s course.  I also have Pommes Dauphinoise, though my version has loads of garlic in it, parsley instead of thyme and no cheese on it.  However it is cooked it is a terribly indulgent yet scrummily delicious dish.  I will just have a variety of veggies with it…I think.  Though Quorn Fish-less Fingers may be speaking to me to eat them!