Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness



Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

And the blackberries lie crestfallen at my feet. The sloes are fatly bruised-blue in their place. I’d collect them if I had a bottle of gin to drop them into.   I’m fearful to buy one for myself, though A bottle of gin, please. Mother’s Ruin, that’s what my grandmother called it. (And Chardonnay isn’t?)

We gathered blackberries one hot summer evening. The girls and I. The branches hung less heavy; the fruit was beginning to drop where it lay on the ground, crushed, dejected, to bleed into my hems. Amongst the thorns, though, there remained a few, plump and jewel coloured and difficult to pluck without risk of spiteful thorns dragging at our skin, clutching, as if resentful of the small, last bounty we stole.   My bowl remained empty. My fingers blackened.

Mum! Stop eating them, my daughters admonished, they’re for supper!

I carried on regardless, popping fruit into my mouth and savouring sweet, late, warm summer on my tongue.

You’re going to get a sore tummy, they warned crossly.

I didn’t.

Which just goes to show how often, as a mother, I must have been wrong.


I have been sewing on iron-on name tapes. Sewing because they resist my ironing, curling in complaint, refusing to lie obligingly flat and still.

Name tapes and shoe cleaning kits and regulation sports shirts.  Boarding school looms.

My daughter starts at hers on Tuesday.

I have taught her how to use the ATM. I have watched her describe her first formal signature. I have failed to teach her how to iron. I have bought her tights. I have argued with her over which winter coat is appropriate/affordable/adequately warm.  I have giggled with her as we packed a bag of toiletries. I have watched television with her head in my lap.

I have shared my English telephone numbers with her: your gran’s; your great aunt’s; your Godmother’s – the contacts I hope will fill the gap my going home will force.

And I wonder what will stop up the one she leaves behind?


And on the subject of schools, I’ve got a post at Schoolgate at The Times today which explores the argument between the IB and A’levels

10 Responses to “Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness”

  1. Kit Says:

    Blackberries and name tapes and that word ‘regulation’ takes be back to my own boarding school days. Somehow I thought all those things were of the past, no longer part of this modern world, especially the shoe cleaning kits. Good luck to your daughter embarking into the boarding school world and to you for surviving the gap she leaves behind.

  2. Rob Says:

    And there was me complaining and cursing whilst covering a few fresh, crisp school books with that infernal transparent sticky stuff, rendering the book covers wrinkled and blistered, instead of smooth and shiny.
    She’ll be fine and she’ll make lots of new friends for life. And she will come out the other end wiser, stronger and more independent. Best of luck on Tuesday.

  3. Iota Says:

    Why DO blackberries have thorns, anyway? Doesn’t the plant WANT the fruit to be eaten? I thought the whole point was for seed dispersal. Or is it that the fruit needs to be eaten by birds, who will distribute the seeds far and wide, and not mice or other mammals (humans, too, I suppose)?

    Good luck on Tuesday.

  4. Grannymar Says:

    Best of luck to all of you for Tuesday. May the new adventure prove inspiring for your daughter as she takes the first step into her world of tomorrow.

  5. guineapigmum Says:

    Good luck all of you!

  6. rosiero Says:

    Commiserations – I am packing my daughter off to the other end of the country in 3 weeks and am not looking forward to it. I am teaching her last-minute cooking and sewing skills for survival.

  7. Mimi Says:

    “small pieces of me are breaking away- splinters of myself”.
    That just about describes how I feel about the back -to-school thing, and I don’t have to pack anyone off to boarding school, though I have just finished, at 11.55PM taking up a skirt “so I don’t look like a first year”.
    Good luck with it, my thoughts are with you.

  8. Mud Says:

    Blackberries have to be the very essence of lazy late summer days in a taste.

    Good luck with boarding school.

  9. Paradiselostintranslation Says:

    I came back to Albania at the end of August to find i’d missed all the blackberries. Thye’re so early here!
    I enjoyed reading yr piece on A Levels & IB. the school I taught at in Sri Lanka was an IB one & my 1st exposure to it. I really liked it. But I do also like the depth of A Levels which is still (just about ) there!

  10. French Fancy Says:

    Well that just shows how hot it is where you are then. Our blackberries are a few weeks away from being harvested.

    Good luck with not missing your daughter too much – thinking of you

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