Friday 17 June 2011

The Flying Strawberry Waltz

Imagine, if you will, a bungalow, with a sizeable proportion of its garden given over to fruits and vegetables. One of the more eye-catching features is a pair of cage-cum-tent structures made of fine-mesh chicken wire, bamboo canes and what-have-you, each housing a bed of strawberries on four-foot stilts. One cage has a second strawberry bed at ground level, but a quick analysis of the crop reveals that the flying strawberries are the best ones.

The surrounding patch of garden is a miniature-scale maze of little concrete paths and wooden boardwalks, not always easy to navigage thanks to factors such as the rampant beetroot plants taking over some areas.

It's raining. Everything that isn't concrete, boardwalk, beetroot, strawberry or some other vegetation is mud. Temperature somewhere in the low to mid teens, at a guess, but feeling a bit colder thanks to the precipitation.

Two lanky figures skulk around in this little agrarian labyrinth: grandfather and grandson, [age undisclosed] and 23 respectively, although it might be hard to tell which is which underneath the large raincoats. Both pick their steps carefully, the one because he wants to avoid squashing his soil and impeding its horticultural usefulness, and the other because he doesn't really like getting covered in mud. Both perfectly valid excuses, in their own different ways.

The cages are opened - eventually. They are engineered to be blackbird-proof, and it would seem that they have succeeded, so long as you take the view that a structure's blackbird-proof-ness is proportional to its human-proofness. It takes a few minutes to unpick all of the tie-wraps holding the side sheets on so that the fruits can be harvested. Most of the ripe berries make their way into the plastic bowl held by the junior conspirator, while one or two of the best are scoffed straight off the plant, and a few other not-so-best examples are sent for flying lessons.

It may have been stated that the best strawberries are the flying ones. However, it was also true that the worst ones were flying ones, albeit in a very different way. Not so much 'flying' in the sense of 'having grown in the high-level beds'; more in the sense of 'being propelled over the back fence in an elegant aerial trajectory'. The awkward, ground-avoiding perambulations of the two harvesters are counterpointed, in a very peculiar waltz, by the simple, swift flight of the slug-eaten or just plain rotten fruits.

Strange that the most crisp and straightforward path of movement should be achieved by the least attractive blobs in the garden.

There's a one-track road in a little cutting on the far side of the fence, and there's a moment of guilty horror just after a largeish quality-assessment failure is dispatched outwards: what if there's a motorist down there? What if some poor blighter is driving innocently along and minding their own business, and they suddenly find their vehicle decorated with an unexpected splodge of bad strawberry? What if... oh dear. The word 'windscreen' rushes to the mental forefront, followed by the prequel phrase 'unable to see out of'. This could be bad... very bad... who would have thought a mere strawberry - especially a rotten one - could do so much damage?

But then the moment passes, with a reassuring lack of hideous metallic crunching noises. If the dodgy berry does meet a car now, then it'll be safely pancaked under the tyres rather than clouding the driver's vision and sending them off the road. Strawberry averted, one might say. Thank goodness for that.

Well, there's only so much fruit on the bushes, and only so much rain the human soul can take in an afternoon anyway, so eventually the two raincoat-shrouded figures shuffle off back into the bungalow, and leave the little flying plants to carry on the good work, and ripen some more berries - ready for the exercise to be repeated tomorrow. If the rain lets up.

- The Colclough

1 comment:

  1. Fresh, home grown strawberries are the best... Also, I think my mum would very much like to do the same thing to our garden however we refuse to let her remove any more grass at least until we've left home!