Black gold

Sometimes it seems I’m at my happiest when heading from A to B, with space to think up titles for blog posts, or the like.  After much deliberation for this one, I settled on black gold.

Would it be a hard-hitting commentary on oil over-dependence?  Not really.  An oblique Asterix book reference? Closer territory, though as I recall, that was about oil too.  What is far more important to the world economy at the moment, is free stuff. And the black gold of the article is all about the joy of brambling.

Had a half day off, after my time on the exhibition stand, and by five o’clock or so on Friday, decided that a good use of time would be to head off to the cycle path, not far from our flat, and pick some brambles.  Usually we’re off doing this earlier in September, but one way or another (ie rain), bramble plans had been delayed.

Life along the cycle path is quite pleasant.  Cyclists were heading home from work, or on early weekend excursions.  One chap stopped me to ask where my rucksack came from – this turned out to be a lament on the fact that he couldn’t replace his current one with a similar kind, and hoped that mine (which looked like his) might be a new one.  There were a few dogs to say hello to, but mainly there was the fun of filling tubs with brambles.

When I was little, brambles tended to get used up in crumbles.  Any juice left over from stewing the fruit would be kept as a sauce to pour over ice cream – this was known as ‘blood’.  Very satisfying when you’re 8, and the attraction of it still remains.

Equally, I had a birthday book, and on the page opposite the start of September (and my granny’s birthday) was a picture of the Flopsy Bunnies out picking brambles.  (I think Beatrix Potter called them blackberries, but obviously you can’t be good at everything.)

Being a bit of an afficionado of autumn, the conjuncture of all these things on adjoining pages seemed to suggest the essential importance of brambles.

I’m sure that if I kept brambling enough, I would be able to come up with some kind of complicated metaphor for what it teaches you about life, given the twin perils of nettles and bramble thorns that you have to overcome.

It is true that the fattest brambles seem to grow behind nettles.  Equally, turning slightly around from where you’ve been picking shows further drifts of fruit that you didn’t spot first time.

Like many things in life, the ultimate bramble patch is the one just further along the path from where you are…where all fruit will be large, juicy and easy to pick without getting skewered by the nettles again.

But perhaps another, deeper appeal of all this is filling one’s storehouse with good things – and only for the cost of looking, and a few stings.  Some entertainment comes without batteries, and some food is not vacuum packed within an inch of its life.

For both these things, and for switching off most of your brain for an hour or so, three cheers.  Next stop, elderberries – perhaps in a couple of weeks or so.