acorns, Blackberry, brambles, cornucopia, divination, foraging, gambling, goose, Guinness Book of Records, Michaelmas, Premium Bond, Satan, sin of commission, sin of omission, sloe gin, St Michael, William Hill
Let’s go for a walk and get some blackberries, l suggested to Carrie.
With all her kids to feed, she should be able to freeze quite a few
fruit crumbles, what with the glut of apples too.
Okay. We’d better get them in before the 10th or 11th,
Oh, because you must pick blackberries by Old Michaelmas Day,
which is either on the 10th or on the 11th- there is some dispute about
What happens if you break the rule? I asked, always the maverick.
Something apocalyptic, since Satan was apparently banished from
Heaven on that day and he fell to Earth and landed in a blackberry
He cursed the brambles and either spat on them, or in a Yorkshire
version, urinated on them.
Gross. I expect you would wash them, anyway.
We could always look for acorns, or haycorns as my children
always call them.
What can we make with these? I looked sceptical.
No, we could lay a bet on a white Christmas and might do better than
the lottery, she elaborated. If there are a lot of hay..ay-
Bless you! I thought she was about to sneeze..
acorns, there will be snow in December, she elucidated.
I never get lucky that way, I sighed. Mind you, I don’t buy lottery
tickets. When I was a child, gambling was seen to be as cursed by
Blackberries, she laughed. But you are still prepared to eat those.
Anyway, you’ve got to be in it to win it.
(Sometimes Carrie speaks in the most appalling cliches.)
Mmm...I mused. It was tempting, but we know where temptation
springs from. Curiously, I have a different take on Premium Bonds, but
then mine never come up, so the sin is never actualised. Is that a sin of
commission, or omission? Either way, will I get away with it? I thought
Michaelmas was last Sunday, though? I changed the subject- always a good
diversionary technique if something was challenging me ethically.
Oh, that was The Feast of St Michael and All Angels. Didn’t you have goose
for dinner? It’s so traditional? We had one, but they cost a fortune now.
What? I enquired. Was there another anecdote about folklore and rodents?
I’ve just realised that I forgot to check the colour of the breastbones.
‘Cos if they are brown, then we will have a mild winter and if they are white
or bluish white, we can anticipate a severe one.
I have never spent time examining the bones of my Sunday dinner that
closely. Maybe William Hill had to – that is, if there ever
was a William Hill. I could imagine him taking his wife to task for throwing
the giblets and carcase into the stock pot before he had done his domestic
divination and calculated the odds.
Was there a real William Hill? I asked aloud.
Why are you asking me that? she looked confused and exasperated. Do
you mean the bookmaker?
Well, I think he operated in Yorkshire..
Where the devil was once supposed to have…
Don’t say it, she cautioned. He was the guy who called legal betting
offices a cancer on society.
A case of the stockpot calling the kettle..
Look, we’d better get going, before the rain arrives and spoils our spoils, as it
were, Carrie interrupted my mercenary meditation on how I could sin and
avoid the consequences. A world-first in the Guinness Book of Records,
probably, in spite of what Satan whispers.
Okay. Do you want a plastic bag? I rummaged in my wicker basket.
She looked at me as if I was sporting horns and carried a trident.
I don’t tend to use them any more. Carrie can be so sanctimonious
sometimes. She just likes to save five pence.
Well, just this once, see it as a supermarket- sponsored receptacle for
nature’s cornucopia, saved from the devil’s contamination.
Well, if you put it like that, she said. Let’s go a-foraging!
I’ll see if I can find some sloes for Ginevra’s gin, I remarked.
Drink of the devil, Carrie added. Anyway, come on!