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Monday 15 July 2013

Writing From Life: Inspiration Fieldwork...

Cyril Connolly wrote: "There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall”. He was writing in the first half of the twentieth century. Working people can’t afford to think like that these days. 

When my children were small, I found the perfect way to keep us all happy. On fine days, I loaded up everything we needed and headed off for the local pick-your-own farm. It was a perfectly safe and secure space, complete with fresh air, and exercise. At first they stayed with the picnic, then later they galloped around while I picked strawberries, raspberries and anything in season we didn’t have at home. As they grew older, they did the picking while I sat in the shade and wrote. We were nearly always the only ones on the site, and the peace and quiet was lovely. Sadly, the lack of customers meant the fruit farmer couldn’t make a profit. He eventually gave up, and sold his land to a developer. We had to find another pick-your-own place, but luckily Over Farm runs a great farm shop too and seasonal events as well, so it’s always busy.
By David Shankbone

DD and I went fruit picking early last Friday, before the sun got too hot. After picking pounds of strawberries from the greenhouses here during May and June we’ve finally run out,  but everybody’s still keen to have fresh fruit every day.  Supporting the pick-your-own was an easy way to get some more, and made it cheaper than buying ready-picked fruit.  The quality was better than supermarket fruit, too, as we could be selective. We only picked the best, ripest berries. No supermarket tricks for us, such as hiding the unripe and damaged ones at the bottom of the punnet. One of the biggest con tricks pulled on the fruit-buying public can be put in two words: "home ripening". Most of the time it has been picked hard and green days before, then it gets shipped for miles. The produce goes wrinkly and/or mouldy before it gets soft enough to eat. When it eventually seems “ripe” it’s got none of the flavour of properly matured fruit, picked at its peak and eaten within hours.  
By http://www.flickr.com/photos/birdies-perch/ [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Birdies Perch

Our freezer is now packed with boxes of strawberry granita, frozen raspberries for adding to our traditional Christmas trifle, and fruit puree ready to defrost and pour over cheesecake. It’s supposed to last us for months, but the weather’s so hot at the moment, I think we’ll have eaten it within a week. That’s a good excuse to go back and pick some more fruit!
There was a bonus from our day out in the peace and quiet of the countryside. It took the form of some unexpected inspiration. The ticking of my daughter’s watch sounded very loud in the quiet of the strawberry field. It gave me an idea for a new short story. Everyone laughs at the amount of junk I carry around in my handbag, but at least I had a notebook and pen right there with me. I could make notes on the spot, instead of having to wait until I got home. By that time, you can bet I would have been distracted by a dozen other things, and forgotten my idea. 
A sun-soaked strawberry field was the last place I expected to be hit by inspiration. Have you ever had a good idea in an unusual setting?

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