Not three minutes after we step out of the windy, sunny afternoon and into the grocery store, the blueberries have caught my eye: 150 grams of Australian blueberries for only £2, and once again I realize just how much of my life here centers on small, exquisite, incredibly expensive things. I reach out for the punnet, just to get a better look, and I can see that these berries are flawless. He says, "what kinds of exotic fruits are there today?" "The blueberries," I say, "look at these." "Oh," he replies, "actually, if you want to get berries for later, we could have them with the pound cake." I slip the punnet into my shopping basket and choose one of strawberries, as well. The strawberries, at least, are £3 off, on sale: I will pay only £1.99 for 400 g, nearly a pound, long after what I thought was the end of the strawberry season.
When we return to the college, I say, "I'm just going to put these in a bowl with a bit of sugar." I am thinking, they will make their own juices for the few hours before dinner; we will have strawberries in sauce. He seems perplexed by the idea, but it's not even the most complicated recipe I could think up for macerated berries. It's just what one does, if one needs berries to be a topping.
I wash the berries in the colander I discovered only after I'd drained our pasta for last weekend's dinner. Blueberries first: and they are sugar; they are my summer come back; they are promise itself across my tongue. And now the improbably beautiful strawberries, not a fuzzed or fallen one in the bunch. They are so beyond what I know that I pack a tiny sampling: three strawberries, ten blueberries: into the single, strange glass ramekin that belongs to the flat, and I'm back out the door, tapping for my friend, who is surprised.
"Are these for tonight, or for afternoon delectation?" he says as he takes the ramekin. I laugh out loud at the idea of delivering 1.5 strawberries for each party to Sunday dinner. I leave him to taste them on his own; I know what he's in for.
After dinner we eat cake and sorbet and macerated berries and berries au naturel. And we gird up for tomorrow's work by starting to make plans for our next days off. And so I will go to sleep, belly full of sweetness, thinking of nearby cities full of medieval churches, of nearby beaches full of dunes and coves and saltmarshes and birds, of cathedrals and ancestral halls and pubs and piers, of train timetables and car hire. And I will wake up, flex my fingers, put them to these keys, and watch the words come to play.