Posted on August 23, 2014

Reading some of the online archives of William St Clair Tisdall, Vicar of St Georges Chapel he records through ‘Home Words’ some of the anxieties of Deal during the war and the resonance of faith in times of difficulty – incisively describing shortages of food, poverty and the silencing of the church bells. These shifts in how a community co-exists are difficult to picture today. How does a community reconcile significant loss – and continue to go about a constrained daily life? Researching further in the KCC WW1 timeline, collated by Time2Give volunteers, a variety of support initiatives can be found in newspaper articles and adverts.

A story toward the end of WW1 posits:

Blackberries for the troops

School children have been given permission to collect blackberries 3 half-days each week to contribute to the National Blackberry Collection. In response to a Government appeal, arrangements have been made with school authorities and village registrars to organise the work of gathering the fruit, which will be used to make jam for the troops. Local Food Control Committees have appointed agents to receive the blackberries collected.
Kent Messenger: 07/09/1918

Albeit two months before the end of the war – 11 November 1918 – this national effort of walking to pick blackberries at the end of the growing season underscores a potent sub-text of hope, gathering and recovery by the next generation.

A relatively quiet British Rubus, an aggregate fruit of small drupelets, one of their key characteristics is the capacity to grow near enough anywhere as a pioneer species. Wandering around any urban setting, they propagate in the in-between spaces, finding traction under dappled shades near rubble and poor soils of building sites, cemeteries and parks. Today’s awareness of their anti-oxidant properties highlights their nutritional value but in WW1 they were perhaps only known for their potential health benefits as the idea of ‘vitamines’ was in early genesis (vitamin c was discovered in 1922). With rationing on the home front, scurvy was a common health complaint, as well as on the front line, making this common fruit prudential for making concentrated juices, jams and other forms of conserve. From beginning to end – growth, picking, cooking – a humble domestic scale, truth and light, make this fruit optimistically embody modest cooperation, geographic union and well being, for the bed-bound and ambulant in an urban landscape looking to the future.

The blackberry is a pick-me-up.

Blackberry Tonic.

Note. Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath.