It's blackberry season again, and it seems to come around earlier each year.
I'm sure, way back long ago when I was small, blackberries ripened in September, maybe even as late as October. Certainly, in my memory, the long walks taken to pick hedgerow blackberries took place in Autumn, on a sunny Sunday afternoon sometime after the 'return the school'.
Nowadays, I don't have to go on a country ramble - I pick large cultivated blackberries that grow on the edges of our allotment - and I don't have to wait till Autumn - the first fruits start ripening in early August, and by now I'm picking a bowlful every couple of days,possibly more if the fruit is at the right height for me to reach.
To be honest, though, I miss the whole feel of an 'occasion' that blackberrying used to have. Either my mum or grandma would head up a proper expedition, equipped with bags and bowls for our pickings, and hooked walking sticks to pull down the highest brambles. Hours later we'd return home laden down with pounds and pounds of fruit, and almost the same number of scratches from the vicious thorns.
There were nearer places where a handful or so of fruit could be picked to add to an apple pie, but the longer foraging trip was to a place where we hoped to find enough blackberries for jam. As an event, it fitted into the calendar between the beginning of the Autumn term and Bonfire Night, round about Nottingham's Goose Fair which starts the first Thursday in October;a time when afternoons might be sunny and warm, but mornings are beginning to feel cold, and spiders weave enormous webs across the footpaths on the way to school.
Picking blackberries down at the allotment isn't quite the same.