H is for Hawthorn
A lane which winds, narrow, flanked by hedgerows. The incline steep at first, an old brewery tops the hill. Another twist, a field comes into view. Carried across the wind the sound of livestock, calling. The road levels out and opens up. Turn left or right at the fork. Onward to the top road, where brambles tangled tight with hawthorn line the stream, a gully trapping precious jewelled fruit between water and eager hands. Out of reach, until a branch is found, turned at one end. The perfect tool. Grasping now, he holds my belt while I stretch. A little further, my toe dips into the water. One sharp tug and the branch is freed. Scarlet berries hang over my head, tantalising, asking to be picked. I fill my basket. Hawthorns nestle with blackberries and sloes, nettle leaves for soothing tea and elderberries to pair with tart apples from the walled garden. Life is good now. A simple thing, a piece of fruit picked by a cold hand. Tossed into a woven basket and carried thus, to be splashed and sorted, cooled or pressed, warmed then sieved. These actions once alien are now natural. But time is passing. Nights draw in and occasions for collecting grow slim. A freezer drawer sits crammed with packages marked cooked, jam, gin, crumble. Until next year, when the sun shines long and rain feeds the hedgerows. I’ll see you then in the lane, basket in hand.