I doubt Stendhal was prepared for the arrival of Simon Cowell on the planet or he may well have had second thoughts on the title of his novel. Black dog is gone, save for the head down, trotting Labrador that I can see from the vantage point of my eyrie, although eyrie may be an exaggerated description of the first floor box room that has the euphemistic title of “my office”. Black, however, has been on my mind since I took my camera for a walk up the lane, for which it thanked me by producing this picture of nearly surreal glossy blackberries which were reflecting the small patch of blue sky that I am now treating as the harbinger of the sunny weather that is due to arrive. Working on the picture made me think of Seamus Heaney’s poem which I have attached.
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: summer’s blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Now I’m going to bake nearly black aubergines with melted onions and thick cream with a crust of Parmesan.