This is a tale of thrilling recklessness. Last Thursday my lunchtime stroll took me, almost against my will, along lanes eastwards, eastwards, past the llama farm, down hill and up. In this direction lie the best blackberry bushes, though the season is on its knees and few edible specimens remain, just the odd over-soggy bloater or, saddest of all, the shrivelled black geriatrics, spent on the bramble, ripened and rotted without ever gracing so much as a crumble.
After a while the lane is abruptly interrupted by a locked gate (pictured below), which signals that hereafter it is a private road, and walkers may take themselves down a steep footpath to the right if they wish, or else turn back, or else go hang.
Sometimes I like to lean against this gate and ruminate, and I was doing exactly this when I noticed that just beyond it, in the private forbidden land, was a bramble adorned with the finest, juiciest-looking blackberries you could hope to see, certainly this late in the year. What a terrible waste it would be, I thought, if they were to shrivel unpicked and unappreciated. And all I needed to do to save them from this fate would be to jump over the gate and pick them.
So there I was, weighing up the ethics and analysing the cost-benefit ratio of a three-foot trespass, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted something unsettling. Balanced on top of the gate was a very big, fat, dead blackberry. (If you click the pic to full size you can probably make it out, about halfway between the right edge of the sign and the end of the gate). The sight sent a chill down my spine. Obviously it has been put there deliberately, but to what end or purpose?
I could only think that it was a Warning Berry, fulfilling much the same function vis-à-vis would-be blackberry-scrumpers, as did severed heads on stakes for potential invaders of ancient citadels.
This, clearly, was a test of my sense of adventure, of my capacity for derring-do, perhaps even of my very manhood.
It was too much to bear, it had to be done. I looked quickly about, girded my loins and, as if in a dream, I clambered over the fence, snaffled three of the choicest fruits, reclambered, and marched westward, westward, home to the safety of the office, with pounding heart and Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law on my lips.
But how were the stolen blackberries, you ask? Reader, they were above average.