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September Harvest

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For me, this story began with Ivor and Shiela in March 2002. Ian and I had planned a week on the boat with Ivor and Shiela, something that they had not experienced before. When they arrived, Shiela presented us with the gaily painted water can that had once belonged to my grandfather. He had used it while caravanning, to get fresh water each day. Shiela thought it would be useful on the boat. She was not wrong! The water can, now painted in a traditional canal art style, is used regularly for not only water but blackberries, sloes, plums and anything else we can glean in the hedges that overhang the canal. This year (September 2006) was a special occasion since it was the first year that all 3 grandchildren would be old enough to enjoy the delights of blackberrying on the canal


 

We set off on a grey but warm day in the middle of September. The water can took its usual place on the top of ‘Hermitage’, our narrowboat. The children were tasked with pointing out the brambles laden with the most succulent fruit, and in no time at all, there were shrieks of delight as we passed the first lot of blackberry brambles. Since we were unable to stop quickly, we ‘marked’ the spot and asked the children to give the helmsman (Granddad) a little more warning. More shrieks ensued, this time Granddad managed to stop. While David and Ian held the boat close to the bank opposite the towpath, using the boat hook for assistance, Tanya, Eloise and I helped the children to get the hang of the ‘picking’ ga


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James and Phoebe each armed with a plastic mug started to pluck away – ‘one for the mug, two for me’. Daniel found it a little more difficult. Firstly the life jacked that we insisted he wear kept riding up to his ears and secondly, his reach was not quite long enough to easily get to the blackberries. Not to be outdone, he wiggled between the pickers thrusting his mug out to be filled, emptying it (supposedly into the water can) and coming back for more. James, ever the sensitive one, ensured that Daniel’s mug always had fruit in it


   

September 2006 004.gif Before long, there were blackberries everywhere! Besides being in the water can, they were on the deck, squashed on the soles of the children’s trainers, mashed up between the life jackets and the children’s T shirts, squashed onto the rear end of the children’s shorts and not to mention all over their faces and hands. James and Phoebe found it more fun to collect the blackberries from the adults and tip them into the water can – eating some along the way. Daniel, on the other hand, thought it much better to sit on the roof of the boat and as James and Phoebe ran up and down, he would hold out his mug to be replenished. Instead of tipping the contents into the water can he tipped the berries sometimes 2 at a time into his mouth, and waited for the next lot to pass by. As one would expect, all this was done with much excited chatter and shrieking. An elderly gentleman appeared on the towpath opposite the boat. He had been to the nearby village to do some shopping and had taken a shortcut across the fields. He stopped to watch the fun. He told us that all across the fields he could hear the children and kept looking around for the source of the excitement

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Soon it was time to turn the boat around and head back. I suspected that the children were starting to get tired of blackberries but the offer of ‘hot dogs’ did not deter them much. Arriving back at the moorings, we took stock. Grandpop’s water can was nearly full! We divided the bounty between the two young families (Suttons and Smalleys) leaving a little for ourselves. To that, we added apples from our tree. The intention was that after some had been kept back for the respective families, the rest of the blackberries were to go with the children to school. God’s wonderful harvest touched a lot of people that day – most of all, Ian and I! Where else in the world could we ever have had such a wonderful day


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