I seem to have entered a new phase of expatriation, if there can be such a thing. Instead of simply falling starry-eyed for the bright lights of London, I have slowly but surely been developing a deep attachment to England. We went for a long ramble down one of the Roman roads in Cambridgeshire on Saturday. We picked sloes (sour plums the colour of blueberries and only slightly larger), blackberries, rosehips and elderberries. On our way home, we bought one bottle of gin and one of sparkling water. The bloke cooked dinner - new potatoes, fine beans, lamb cutlets cooked in some kind of magical rosemary & garlic gravy - while I sorted fruits and stripped the elderberries off their stems. Custard tarts were consumed. (First time for me. Mmm, nutmeg.) A laborious two hours of sloe-pricking ensued, aided by the consumption of the bottle of sparkling water – and one of red wine. For our efforts, we gained two bottles of gin infused with sloes, which will gradually turn into the kind of deceptively fruity, sweet and quite alcoholic drink that makes everyone loopy right around Christmas.
This probably doesn’t sound like a thrilling day. Struggling against the cold crisp wind, sliding along muddy paths and occasionally falling into a puddle don’t seem onerous when you look across the muted yellow and green fields, when you stand on tiptoe to pick a huge bunch of luscious fruit, or when a sudden gust sets the poplars rustling distinctively. When you arrive home and shed your soggy coat and wet boots and sit down with a cup of tea. When you know that tomorrow morning you’re going to make a magnificent fruit salad to go with the goose eggs you got from the local market. This blustery grey country inspires a kind of quiet enjoyment and appreciation that I haven’t experienced before. I’ve been noisy and busy for a long time, and often I still must be, but I feel England has calmed and gentled me.
Oddly, I don’t seem to mind at all.