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Death of a Naturalist

blackberryI ate my first blackberries of the summer just a few days ago.

I’ve been eyeing them up in the hedgerow since the beginning of the month when they first started to ink up in small numbers, biding my time, waiting for the sweetness, the ripeness to set in.

Pausing on the path up Pennance hill to let someone pass, I saw them, seven, eight, maybe ten black blackberries on the edge of the field. Any thoughts of saving them for my picnic dessert evaporated as the first one hit my tongue, flooding my head with juices and flavours and purple stain, and re-drawing to the surface lines indelibly printed in the back of my mind:

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.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: the summer’s blood was in it


I was fourteen and I’d never heard of him. It was the end of the summer term, and having finished all our end of year exams we were in a sort of educational limbo between lower school and GCSEs. (But of course I didn’t know the word limbo yet, nor the ‘cold glitter’ and the spark of deep core grief-sadness I cannot dissociate from it.) So they gave us something to bridge the gap, a poem to look at such as we might get to study in the following school year. It was ‘Blackberry Picking’ by Seamus Heaney. Continue reading

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Wordsworth

The Valley Garden, Virginia Water, Surrey (c) Craig & Jane Friesema

15th April 1802, Ullswater, Cumbria

Dorothy and William Wordsworth set out for a lakeside walk after lunch. It was very windy, and they sheltered behind various props manmade and natural, spotting, among other things, a field being ploughed, some primroses and anemones, some cows. Oh and some daffodils. Dorothy writes it in her diary. Her brother uses this as a resource for a poem. The rest is history.

15th April 2012, Virginia Water, Surrey

I set out for a lakeside walk with my mum. It was very windy. Coming upon a division in the prescribed pathways we were undecided as to which to follow. We plumped for the middle way and found that the temporary sign To The Daffodils does not deceive: we soon espied them

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continue reading