When I was growing up in Wexford, an important rite of passage / introduction to child labour was to go picking strawberries. Like a scene out of a Charles Bukowski short story, we would gather in the centre of the village and a tractor and trailor would come by to collect us. We would be given a shallow wooden box, our allotted rows and told to start. For those of you who imagine picking strawberries involves gambolling through idyllic meadows, merrily picking as you go, let me tell you it is backbreaking work which involves hunkering down in the mud, foraging for berries on the ground and then slowly filling the box for which you eventually get paid a pittance.
The temptation to eat the berries or, worse still, start throwing them at your neighbours and inadvertently starting a strawberry war by the end of which everybody is blood red, was usually too much to bear.
My strawberry picking career was mercifully short - it went something like this: Arrive in field. Start picking. Eat some strawberries. Throw some strawberries, starting strawberry war. Look forlornly at proper workers who had filled their boxes three times already. Morning break. Go home. Watch Wimbledon for the rest of the day.
Anyway, thirty years later, this weekend I am revisiting the world of fruit picking - I am off to the harvest in Slovenia. Liam has an acre or so of vines and this Saturday is harvest day. This is my first harvest, so I am really looking forward to it. I just keep telling myself, I am doing a harvest - it's not the same as picking strawberries.
Will report back next week.