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Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Days of picking raspberries differently with Sophie Kinsella

I've almost picked the last of the raspberries.

Each visit to the allotment to pick them has been different. At the beginning of the season, there were a couple of quick dashes to pick before heavy rain was about to fall. A case of throwing caution to the wind, and flinging as many ripe raspberries as I could into containers, then home, before getting soaked.

A few weeks ago, the sun was warm on my back as I made my way down the rows of raspberries canes, and picked leisurely. Treating myself at the end of each row to a handful of juicy berries,  lifting my face to the sun, I was thoroughly lost in the moment.

It reminded me of something, something I'd read years ago. A very funny Sophie Kinsella novel "The Undomestic Goddess" featuring a deliciously romantic romp


in the raspberry canes between the heroine Samantha and the rather gorgeous Nathaniel. 

Samantha is a hotshot overworked London lawyer who escapes to the countryside after she's blamed for a multi-million-pound error and Nathaniel is a gardener who teaches her that life in the slow lane can be more rewarding in more ways than one.  A few days later , I found the book in a bookcase upstairs and the raspberry picking scene.

"The raspberry canes are further down the garden, like rooms of green netting, with dry earthy floors and rows of raspberry canes As we enter there's no sound apart from buzzing insects and the flapping of a trapped bird, which Nathaniel shoos out.

We work  the first row wordlessly, intently, picking the fruit off the plants. By the end of the row, my mouth is tangy with the taste of them, my hands are scratched and aching, and I'm sweating all over. The heat seems more intense in this raspberry cage than anywhere else in the garden,

 We meet at the end of the row and Nathaniel looks at me a still second, sweat running down the side of his face.

"Hot work," he says. He puts his trug down and strips off his T-shirt.

"Yes."There's a still beat between us. Then, almost defiantly, I do the same. I'm standing there in my bra, inches from in, my skin pale and milky compared to his.

"Have we done enough?" I gesture at the trug,  but Nathaniel doesn't even glance down.

"Not yet."

Something about this expression makes me damp and prickly behind my knees. I meet his eyes and it's like we're playing truth or dare.

"I couldn't reach these ones." I point at a high cluster of fruit just out of reach.

"I'll help" He leans over me, skin against skin, and I feel his mouth on my earlobe as he picks the fruit. My entire body responds. I can't bear this, I need it to stop. And I need it not to stop."

Well, I'm going to stop there too as the attraction and tension among the raspberries continues rather well. I couldn't help thinking of that scene though,  during the heatwave when I went to the allotment to water the raspberries after doing some more picking. 

The heat, the sweating (mine). There the resemblance ended and I began to smile, then giggle, before crying with laughter. 

Romance was decidedly lacking. In the distance I could see Alan, in his eighties, back bent over digging, and then stopping to rub his back as he tried to get upright.  On the neighbouring allotment, Graham was huffing and puffing, not from any physical exertion I might add, he was too busy swearing at the same time. I don't blame him, thieves keep targeting our allotment site,  and I won't describe what he was going to do to them if found.

Truth can be so much more mundane than fiction.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of raspberries tucked away in the freezer, raspberry coulis too, and pounds of homemade raspberry and gin jam on my shelves.  

 All I need to do now is prune the raspberries, and  re-read Sophie Kinsella’s novel……

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