Blackberry season is early this year but looks like it might extend awhile as there remain many small green buds on the lower thorny strings of bramble that weave through the hedge. The thorns catch here and there and nettles snatch at my fingers as I dip in and out, in competition with the wasps and moths for the biggest fruit. The ripest berries fall apart before I get them anywhere near the neck of the bottle I am trying to fill. They splatter between my fingers making them sticky and claret red, but I carry on and end up in a proper butcher’s mess by the time the bottle is full.
The hedge remains decorated by heavy purple and red berries, lit upon by the butterflies that can access areas way above my head. last year I carried out my step ladder to reach the topmost fruit. Today’s forage was a far more spontaneous affair. I had spotted some sloes in a hedgerow down the lane and had made a mental note to fill my pockets later in the day, but I was here, now, and had found a bottle with the clipped stopper. Who doesn’t prefer blackberries to sloes, I ask? I topped up the bottle with white rum, which, over the course of the rest of the day became a deep red.
This morning, when a considerate fellow traveller woke me on the ferry, I had completed my one hundred-and-second crossing of the English Channel since Easter 2017. In that time my ability to sleep anywhere has been tested and proven beyond all expectations. I have bounced across the floor in October storms and sweltered through the summer heatwave. I know the best times to queue for breakfast, and how to avoid hordes of children on their school trips, where to sleep if you can’t get a cabin and how to time your arrival so your vehicle doesn’t get parked up in the gods (so your car isn’t the last one off the ferry).
However, all of these hard acquired life skills are soon to be put away to gather the fond, and strangely bright, dust of memory. All of the sunsets and sunrises, the storms and spilled drinks, the snorers and the books devoured will be replaced by the stillness of living in one place at a time. I am doing my most extreme commuting at the moment, six hours driving interrupted by four hours on a ferry. I made a brief reckoning of the time I have spent at sea between Portsmouth and Caen, Newhaven and Dieppe, and it all adds up to more than thirty days on the water. Quite enough.
I am looking forward to keeping more regular hours, and spending time watching television (French television is probably the best in the world!). The cat has missed my lap and the family need my famous jokes and impressive ability to open jam jars more and more, as lids tighten in the run-up to Brexit. I’m not sure what I am going to do but I’m certain something will turn up. It always seems to work out that way.