Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A slice of paradiso

Our first year in Tasmania is almost concluded. Before we celebrate our first year here in a few weeks' time, the idea of reflecting upon the year that was seems like a good one. And what a year it’s been! It doesn’t seem that long ago when we drove our cars onto the Spirit of Tasmania and traversed Bass Strait.  As I sit here this evening to ponder upon the year that was, I find myself distracted by the clouds. This time of year the clouds seem to take on a magical form. They move quickly across the landscape metamorphosing before my eyes. Layer upon layer, palimpsests of cotton wool against merino wool, marshmallow and wisp, drifting – some fill out and mushroom outwards and upwards. The evening’s sun sets alight the canvases with hazy lilacs, warm yellows, garish oranges and pinks that blend into greys.  Some hang low on Bruny’s frame, softening its dry paddocks with a broad watercolour wash; the ones high in the sky reflect wild palettes of orange and pinks onto D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The Channel really is alive with colour as I set to write this piece.


We get double rainbows around these parts

 For the first time, I properly learned about seasons and had first-hand experience of its rhythms. The winding up of summer was met with relief for our Brisbane summer had been a hot, humid and very wet one. The vestiges of renovations in the height of summer and open houses during monsoonal downpours were a thing of the past. We arrived in the Apple Isle during autumn when most of the small orchard was bare so we couldn’t identify most of the fruit trees. Autumn gave us lots and lots of leaf litter, some fabulous evening skies, interesting fungi and a glimpse into what winter might be like.


A striking find in the paddock: Aleuria Aurantia or Orange Peel Fungus

All winter long, the wood heater got a vigorous workout while we waited eagerly to see what would burst forth from the orchard. Our neighbours plied us with their delightful nashi pears and quinces. For weeks we had poached quinces with porridge, used them as toppings for tarts and flans, and the leftover quinces turned into jelly. I will never forget the perfume of quinces ripening in the pantry, filling the entire house with their distinct aromas. Just as we thought winter would never end, Spring arrived - late, and with lots of rain.

The spike in temperature saw the almonds racing ahead first with flowers, the plums weren’t far behind with their glorious white and pink blossoms. The orchard turned into a veritable confetti wonderland. The cherries came second with their own beautiful blossoms. I imagine this is what Japan is like at cherry blossom time! Apples took their time with their own intensely pink pretty flowers. The orchard buzzed with hundreds of bees, insects and birds.

Just as Summer woke from its long slumber, the noisy swamp hens packed up and left, so did the wild ducks, herons and eagles, they’ve all raised their young and flown the coop. All that’s left are broken shells at the bottom of trees – evidence of a family made. Just as we thought the birds had abandoned us, tribes of honey warblers, wrens, finches, swallows and other tiny birds moved in. I've recently discovered the joys of bird watching. Summer’s bounty of fruit saw my first batches of cherry and plum jams. I frequented op shops and bought as many jars and bottles as I could find. Lots of pies, tarts and cakes were eaten during the course of our first year. I learned to make bread and bagels and all sorts of baked goodies. Wet, cold dreary days will force you indoors and cooking I assure you! Now I have to turn my attention to crab apples and blackberries. The op shops await.


 

Cherries, raspberries, red currants from the garden                               Blackberries galore!


Weekends of leisurely newspaper and lifestyle magazine reading have given way to scouring the Ag and farming newspapers for clearing sales and auctions. Advertisements for bargain second hand tractors and its accoutrements excite us. Is it hydrostatic or manual? Has it got 4WD? Come with ag wheels, four-in-one buckets, slashers and post-hole digger? Bonus. Yes, if you thought my Blundstones were daggy, gum boots are now de rigueur in my shoe collection.

In the course of the year: old oyster middens have been uncovered by king tides and wild winds, majestic eucalypts, pines and stringybarks felled, five garden beds constructed, fencing built, gullies of blackberries slashed, neglected fruit trees released from the onslaught of bramble, wild weeds and mushrooms foraged, tonnes of firewood cut and collected, and our biggest investment so far, a ride-on mower!

I had no expectations of country living a year ago. Given that I had never lived on property or anywhere far from cities, how could I know what it would be like? Living on a bit of land demands time - every free, available spare moment is filled with 'doing'. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do.  Something is always demanding attention – the rabbit holes need filling up, the compost needs turning, the worms need feeding, gardens need watering, paddocks need slashing, blackberries need more cutting and controlling and the trees need pruning. Work aside, living in the country has its peaks and troughs – mostly it is uplifting – the spatial freedom is wonderful. There's something special about Tasmania’s clean air and water and every measure to protect its natural assets is to be commended and encouraged. There is something magnificent and special about being able to walk down to the ocean in search of solitude, a spot of fishing, a beachcomb or forage. With this privilege comes a certain responsibility for the guardianship of our land and sea. The most profound thing so far this year, is the realisation that I don’t want to live in a city anytime soon.



Monday, August 5, 2013

Trees and how to feel when they fall

To own land means having accountability and a set of responsibilities. This is what I am discovering as a first-time owner of a parcel of land. To have land that contains a heritage conservation on its trees carries even more responsibility. The foreshore of the length of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel is home to the swift parrots, Tasmania’s endangered birds. These birds’ natural habitat is in the blue gums that are found on our parcel of land. Environmentalists talk of conservation corridors and community of natives – for me, the combination of towering blue gums, silver peppermint gums and stringybarks make for beautiful features of the land and make up a distinct part of Southern Tasmania’s landscape.

For the record, I am not an avid environmentalist nor am I an eco-warrior. My reaction to the decision to fell some of the very established native trees on our land was one of horror. I even feel sad that the dead, but strangely beautiful wattle tree that frames the cottage garden has to go. In order to make our land working and ‘productive’ for us fruit trees, garden beds, berry vines and nut groves need enough sun and they need proper nourishment from the earth. Dams need reinforcing and revitalizing, and chooks need a pen in which to return home from running around foraging. Sometimes to eke out a sustainable living lifestyle demands certain sacrifices – that, I have come to realise. It has taken months to accept that the huge pine trees by the dam have to go (they are sucking the dam dry and making the soil very acidic and unusable); the very established and beautiful blue gums that shade a lot of the property are in paths of future fruit trees and berry vines; the majestic silver peppermints and stringybarks also are in the way of edible species being planted. So they have to go. The local Council said yes to our request of removal of some trees but with the compromise of an offset planting of more blue gums. So the offset deal is four blue gums for every established felled tree. 

As the men outside hack away at my trees with much gusto, the whirr-whirr of chainsaws remind me of the shrill drilling of dentists – only these guys are uprooting perfectly good trees. I hide in my office and am unable to go outside to see the destruction as it is happening. I hear the distinct cracks of wood, and the first sickening giant thud – and then a second. And there's more to come. I feel a bit sick in the gut. Old country hands might call me a softy but my heart died a little today as the trees came down. Never did I think I would ever feel this way about trees and the bond I feel towards them on my land. Perhaps the birds will forgive us a little and the possums will move on. There is another conservation corridor on the other side of the property which I hope will flourish as time moves on. For now, I only hope we do the land justice by enriching its soil and planting lovely things. The neglected water course overgrown by blackberries is being rejunevated slowly by hand and I hope we can create a proper rock/creek bed that will attract many species of wildlife to compensate for the loss of trees and restore balance in the native-introduced environmental/agricultural framework.



(a mighty stringbark in all its glory)

(a silver peppermint)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Family Feast cookbook: recipe review for spanakopita

I looked at this book again with a more critical eye. First came the index review, then I looked at the recipes and then to test my hunch that publishers don't always test their recipes; I put one of the Greek recipes to test on the weekend. A visit to a country produce market yielded the freshest bunch of silverbeet so spanakopita was the logical choice. I don't usually follow recipes religiously as I tend to alter ingredients to suit what I have available. My Family Feast's spanakopita gives the recipe for its filo pastry. I had never made filo pastry before so I thought I'd give it a go. It was also the only pastry recipe in the book that had exact measurements for its dough.

The pastry recipe calls for:

525g (3½ C) plain flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp warm water
100g butter melted and mixed with 1 extra tablespoon olive oil

(spanakopita recipe from My Family Feast)

Those of you who are well acquainted with making pastry and breads will know that these liquid-to-dry ingredients ratio don't add up. In fact, if you do follow this recipe to a tee you'll notice that the dough consistency is that of dry sand. The butter/oil mixture is for brushing between layers, by the way. There is no chance that this dough was forming a soft dough. I kneaded and kneaded and nothing happened so I added more oil, more water – so much more than I thought I'd better check another recipe to see if I was going down the right track.

I had an old copy of an SBS Feast magazine lying about – I happened to remember seeing a spanakopita recipe. I found it in the June 2013 edition. Its recipe for spanakopita pastry called for:

1kg plain flour
500ml lukewarm water
250ml vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt

Notice the difference in dry ingredients-to-liquid ratio? No wonder I had trouble forming a soft dough! By this time I had lost count of how much oil and warm water I had added. I ended up with what I thought should be a fairly pliable dough and crossed my fingers.

(SBS Feast magazine's spanakopita recipe, June 2013)


Here is the end result. The pastry was a tad too thick but the filling was delicious, the end result was nice thankfully.


Picking a successful recipe out of a cookbook shouldn't be a matter of a lucky draw. Needless to say I will think twice about making anything from this particular cookbook in the future. How many more incorrect recipes are there I wonder?

Whilst I was researching more spanakopita recipes for this post, I ended up finding this recipe on the SBS food website. The pastry is identical to the My Family Feast's except that it uses ¼ C warm water – not 3 tablespoons. Wish I had seen this when I was frantically looking for alternate backup when it really mattered.


Anybody have any similar experiences with recipes that just didn't work?

Friday, July 12, 2013

My Family Feast: a world of family recipes and tradition by Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly hosted SBS's multicultural extravaganza of how Australian migrants and refugees keep their culinary heritage alive. This compelling show made its television debut in 2009 – the book tie-in was published in 2010. I watched the series with interest and looked forward to the book when it came out.

The book is attractively produced with stories of families featured in Sean's series interspersed with their traditional recipes. One endearing element of the book is that we are told who contributed recipes – it's nice to acknowledge these folks. There are lots of recipes to try some using everyday ingredients and other not so common ingredients.

(note that Helen Greenwood's name is not advertised on the cover but the inside cover. The copyright for the text in this cookbook belongs to Greenwood too. Wonder why SBS didn't get Greenwood to host the program as she's a wonderful food writer/reviewer)

I have been a fan of the Afghani bulani for quite some time now, having had them about half a dozen times. I was happy to see the inclusion of these addictive wafer-thin stuffed breads. Now I admit I am a novice baker and maker of breads and baked goods; imagine my surprise when I read the recipe for bulani. The recipe calls for 1kg plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt and water.
The recipe says I should mix them together until the dough is soft.

Now as a learner-maker of baked goods and breads – this sort of vagueness filled me with fear. 1 kg of flour is a lot of flour to waste if I get the dough mixture wrong. How much water is needed? Should the water be cold, hot or lukewarm? What exactly is a soft dough? How should it feel in my hands? Sticky, tacky, wet? Dry, smooth and elastic? These are the sorts of questions I ask.

(recipe for bulani)

I looked up the SBS website for some enlightenment but instead there was this:

Plain flour
water
½ tsp salt

Place flour in a large mixing bowl and gradually add water, mixing with your hands until it becomes doughy.
Leave the dough to settle for 15–20 minutes.
Separate dough into large handfuls, and rolling each one into a ball shape.
Scatter some flour on the bench surface and roll the balls flat with a rolling pin keeping the circular shape.

Clear as mud? There are even less measurements on the website. How much flour is needed? How thin do you roll it out? How large or small is an authentic bulani? I've eaten a few bulanis so at least I have some idea. Imagine if you have never eaten this and was feeling adventurous – you'd have no idea how to attempt this. The website recipe doesn't even specify how the dough should feel!
There are plenty measurements for the filling – down to very precise teaspoons full of spices and oil quantities. So why such imprecise dough requirements?

Further research for recipes on the internet consistently ask for lukewarm water and even a bit of oil to be added to the dough mix. It seems it's roughly about 1 part water to 3.5 parts flour.

And if you're like me and love dumplings – you'd probably want to attempt the Afghani version called mantu – made with lamb in this case. Lots of precise quantities for the filling but no real measurement for the dough wrapper. All it requires is apparently 500grams of plain flour and water. Again mix enough water until a soft dough forms....

I am perplexed as to why these Afghani recipes have been written this way. The Greek spanakopita actually has exact measurements for its filo pastry component; meanwhile the gozleme dough has, again, fairly vague amounts. I know some people cook by feel and approximation, like my my late grandmother but to have a combination of exact and inadequate measurements in the one publication, is frustrating and unhelpful – especially when the cuisine is unfamiliar to a mainstream readership.

Some thought has gone into the index but unfortunately there are some curious inconsistencies. There are some inconsistencies with capitalisations throughout: why 'Potato tortilla'? But 'potato bulani'?
Typesetting glitches see indentation skewed, making a dish sound like it's two dishes at first glance, etc.
There are only three dishes listed under dessert – arroz con leche, flan de leche and black sticky rice are the only sweet treats recognised. What happened to date, sesame and walnut balls, caramel coconut balls (naru), honey balls (loukoumades) and honey jumbles (medenjake)? Don't these sweeties warrant a dessert rating? There's not a 'Sweets' header where I thought I'd find them.

The double entries for the ethnic name and English names are I think redundant. The index is quite a small one and I think to make it easier and clearer for readers – either put the ethnic or English name in brackets - that would have done the trick and might have saved a few lines in the scheme of things.

bread
  bulani 13, 21
  flatbread 204
  ….............
  ..........
  stuffed breads 21

Instead of having bulani appear twice as a subheading – would it not have been clearer as:

bread
  bulani (stuffed breads) 13, 21

This way the reader makes a quick connection that a bulani is a stuffed bread, rather than forgetting and seeing a separate 'stuffed bread' entry and thinking it's a different product – only to discover it's a bulani after you've flicked back! Confused?

(examples of the index)

I looked up gozleme under bread and it was not there. I found gozleme under 'Pies, tarts and pastries'. Perhaps this is where a cross reference would have been helfpul.

bread See also pies, tarts and pastries
tarts See pies, tarts and pastries
pastries See pies, tarts and pastries

Having said all that, the index is not altogether bad - like the rest of the book and its usability – the editorial inconsistencies make it less usable than it should be. I wanted to use this book over and over again but instead, I have had to go to other sources for clarification and validation. The point is to have a book that we can cook from and use with a sense of confidence that all the recipes have been tried and tested – in this case, I'm just not so sure that they have. 

What do cooks look for when they use cookbooks? If recipes don't work - do you try another recipe to test the waters? 


Friday, July 5, 2013

Cookbook indexing woes II

Here is the second instalment of my cookbook indexing woes. Back in 2011 I gave a talk as a member of ANZSI QLD about cookbook indexing. For those of you who don’t know what ANZSI is – it stands for Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers. Like professional editors and their societies, we indexers also have our own, believe it not! For a bit of fun I brought along a few cookbooks that I owned and ones I had borrowed from the library. The night was a rowdy one, who knew that people felt so strongly about the usability of cookbook indexes! We discussed very passionately about the cookbooks we loved, and there was the odd disagreement about how we look up dishes, etc. Among some of the issues we discussed were the usability of ethnic food cookbooks, food memoir/cookbooks, and cookbooks that are published for one local market but what happens when you take it out of its local context.

How do we look up or refer to ethnic dishes that have no English equivalents? How over-indexed are some books? For example, instead of having an entry for ‘Sriracha chilli sauce’ – how about indexing an entry under ‘chilli’ or ‘sauce’ for those who don’t know that Sriracha is a type of Thai chilli sauce. It’s details like these that matter when one is cooking with foreign ingredients.

There are many books to discuss and look at but one of the cookbooks that I want to briefly discuss is the beautifully produced memoir/cookbook hybrid – Pauline Nguyen’s Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes From the Heart.


(a well-worn and thumbed through copy from the library!)

Sumptuous, mouthwatering-looking photographs of dishes feature throughout the book alongside with photographs of the author’s family – past and present. These photographs of people and place tell an important but sad story of displacement and an attempt by a family to hang onto one’s cultural integrity in a foreign land. What it does is it gives Red Lantern’s food an irresistible appeal given its context of the rags-to-riches Vietnamese migrant/refugee narrative and the difference food and culture can make in our lives. Each chapter opens with narrative and ends with recipes.

The index targets a Western/English-speaking audience. The index itself is not inadequate – in fact – it’s a good recipe index. What I find curious is while all the recipes have Vietnamese names and their English equivalents – only the English names are indexed. Perhaps economy of pages dictated this decision.




(Examples of the index from the book: simple and concise)

The memoir component is an interesting one – Pauline gives us her family history, talks about the fall of Saigon and its consequences, the rise of communism and the escape from political tyranny by boat to arrive in Thailand and their subsequent arrival in Australia, etc, (there’s a typo too with the spelling of Pilau Bidong – it should be ‘Pulau’). We’re taken through the social and cultural history of Cabramatta in the early 1980s when it was a place of migrants and refugees. She gives readers another perspective on life there as a migrant family, most of us would only know Cabramatta for its druggy reputation from the media.

Imagine my disappointment when I went to the index to look up Aunty Eight’s corn business – only to find that the entire memoir section is unindexed. I am not sure if this was a conscious decision – perhaps marketing decided that this is sold predominantly as a cookbook? Surely the backstory to Red Lantern is important too? There are plenty of interesting characters dotted throughout the book - don't they deserve a mention in the index? I’m sure many bought the book for its memoir component too? I think this lack of a separate general index for the memoir is a shame – it would have given the book more weight and it would have carried far more historical/social and cultural insight had there been an index. By not acknowledging the story in the index (and I'm sure this was not their intention), I think the publisher has diluted the effect of Pauline’s story - for me, that is disappointing. Not that the Nguyen’s family story is not fascinating enough – it is precisely that it is interesting that I want the option of looking certain aspects up! This could have been an important reference for the present and future generational Nguyen clan in search of family history and the events that have been so significant in their lives.

Those who are after an unconventional review for the book, I found this site, Syrup and Tang, which I only came across recently; it highlights some important publishing issues. It doesn't shy away from being really critical. The reviewer has a valid point: it's important for publishers to make books accessible to its readers; we value the integrity of good editing but we also want to allow the author’s authentic voice to come through the page. Interesting reading, indeed!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cookbook indexing blues

One of the great defects of English books printed in the last century is the want of an index
Lafcadio Hearn

Indexing is perhaps the most neglected, unloved and undervalued aspect of book publishing. Dare I say it, indexes are so often dropped because budgets have blown out or the time frame for the print schedule has gone haywire, and the publisher has decided to leave it out altogether. Or, they get staff to cobble together a few keywords and hope for the best. These token indexes don’t serve much purpose or meaning except to infuriate the reader. For readers researching or undertaking intelligent reading, a good index underpins, contextualises and provides accurate, quick access to a book. And an index is essential to a cookbook tome that may have 1000 recipes within it. It’s not just War-and-Peace cookbooks that demand an index – all cookbooks, no matter their size should have an index. To all those people who love cookbooks – have you noticed how many number of bad or inadequate indexes there are?

Just the other day I joined my nearest local library – and what a thing of joy a library is, I might add! I happened to flick through a random cookbook and started to look at its index. I am sad to report that although the publishers thought to update and revise a 2005 published cookbook in 2009 – nobody, I gather paid any attention to the index. I don’t have the first edition of the cookbook to compare so I can’t comment on the integrity of the index but I can comment on the updated edition!

The book I am referring to is ‘CafĂ© food at home’ by Rosanna Thomson published by New Holland. If any of you have this at home or have access to a library, have a look through the index and you’ll soon learn a thing or two about how not to index a book.

Check out part of the cookbook mentioned here: cafe food at home

The entry under Juice has this: ‘juice, see beverages’
Turn to ‘beverages’ and there are no entries.
Always check your cross-references to make sure you don’t direct readers to a non-existent entry.

(snippet of the index - can you find beverages?)


(snippet of the index: juice see beverages)

Indexing recipes listed under ingredients is always useful but not so in this case. The randomness in this case is not helpful. Yes, there are recipes under ‘bananas, beef, chicken, chocolate, mushroom, eggs’, etc, which are great. But what happened to headings under ‘pasta, seafood, fish, soups, salads, rice or desserts’? Want to make risotto? Forget looking under ‘R’ for risotto or rice – look instead under ‘S’ for seafood risotto. Look under ‘chicken’ and see if you can find ‘barbecued chicken wraps’. No?

If we want to make a healthy beverage/juice – we have to know to look up ‘afternoon kick’ or ‘breakfast in a glass’, or go to contents table and look up the beverages chapter and flick through it to find what you want.  And yes, you can go back to the contents page and look up headings and page ranges but that would defeat the purpose of having an index - is it not easier to be directed straight to the source? I could go on but I’d better stop here, you get picture.

Please publishers, put a little more care and thought about how you want indexes created and how readers might look up ingredients and recipes. I’ll have more examples to come in the near future – in the meantime, please feel free to share your cookbook indexing stories.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

From brown thumbs green things grow

Blackberries, blackberries, blackberries! Those sweet, luscious, juicy, t-shirt staining fruits! I loved looking for them alongside saffron milkcap mushrooms in the pine forests. Deep in the New South Wales hills, they always seemed to pop up just about the same time pine mushrooms would be ready for the picking. Those idyllic forest forages for fungi and fruit are long behind me and I must admit, I would be happy if I never see another blackberry bramble again. You see, the property we’ve bought is over-run by the introduced European blackberry or rubus fruticosus. These suckers are so prolific that they've made the list on the weeds of national significance register.  

Gullies are full of them – these European blackberries are so tall the shrubs tower heads above me (remember that these are growing from a gully up!). They sprout from between the cracks in bitumen, they strangle fruit trees, smother slow-growing natives, shred the succulents to smithereens and like jungle vines – from the trees hang sinister trailing super-sharp vines- all entangled – metres up in the air! It’s threatening to impinge upon the dams – some are actually growing in water! There isn't a stop button for the growth of these plants. There doesn’t seem to be any downtime for this rampaging perennial. Its flowers are beautiful and delicate, and yes, its fruits are delicious but these positive aspects are negated by thorns so fierce they rip flesh like tissue paper. Vines when pulled hard occasionally whip back – lashing me in the face, arms and legs. It can be dangerous business clearing blackberry by hand. 

(blackberry obscuring silver wattle and banksia)

(close-up of spikiness)

(carpet of thorns, post-brushcutting)

The only benefactors here seem to be the rabbits and hares that have burrowed and made their homes under these thorny shrubs. Basil the dog has been tramping through these shrubs in search of rabbits and often comes back completely bloodied from being ripped by thorns. We often pull out thorns stuck in his head and his poor soft ears will never be the same again – having been shredded over and over again.


 (holes big enough for wombats to burrow, let alone rabbits!)

We have eschewed heavy machinery and the use of pesticides and toxic weed killer in the quest to rid our land of weeds. We plan to go down the organic/natural road for our fruit and nut trees in the future so spraying isn't a logical choice or fit. Instead, we’re opting to hand clear the weeds – the locals might laugh at our methods but I don’t see an easy way out. The previous owner had completely neglected the land and its upkeep. It’s sad to see a perfectly good piece of land being left to neglect. There are some interesting and beautiful plants on the property – all overtaken by weeds and blackberry. Slowly we’re clearing one patch at a time and discovering and uncovering all manner of plant life, and an incinerator  in the process (!) under thick blankets of blackberry. With the use of a heavy duty brushcutter and some muscles, we’re finally seeing progress. While S slashes away like a frenzied Freddie Krueger in the gully – I watch the sea of thorns parting like the red sea. Meanwhile, I have the job of freeing up and disentangling the fruit trees and other plants from the clutches of the evil berry.

(the parting of the blackberry sea)

(hillocks of vines raked up) 

(a birthday candle uncovered after a clearing) 
( a clump of native grass and tree ferns uncovered, albeit a little worse for wear after a brushcutter haircut - these were previously hidden!)

(life's little ironies - on top a pile of vines, a healthy crop of nasturtium has spread its canopy. Now to figure out how to get rid of vines without disturbing the lovely spread!)

They say it’s the simple things in life that matter most and in this case, it’s the small things that really a difference. The relief and joy I feel every time I clear the vines from a tree – I can almost hear the tree breathing a sigh of relief! So the clearing continues and the berries will no doubt sprawl again through its vast network of infinite roots; this time though, we’ll be there ready with hardy gloves, a pair of secateurs, mattock and shovel.

It will be some time before I look fondly at a blackberry again. I intend on gorging on them when summer arrives as my act of revenge for all my pricked fingers, bloodied hands and multiple scratches.