You need to pick a lot of wild blackberries to make up a pound in weight! Also you get badly scratched. But that didn’t bother us young lads. We enjoyed roaming the fields. And what’s more a market gardener paid us 1/2d a pound –for us a lot of money in those days! We also collected and sold him rosehips, which would be turned into syrup, issued to us kids to give us a boost of vitamin C. We called this, ‘government juice.’
In addition to earning a bit of pocket money, we lads were also doing our bit for the war effort. Apart from growing our own vegetables, our greatest enterprise was to pile into the back of a lorry. We, with a number of other kids, would be driven a few miles to a market garden. As we jumped down to the ground we were directed to a number of fields or greenhouses. These grew tomatoes. Our task was to ‘eye and tie’ the plants. The eying involved pinching out the suckers between the stem and leaves. These were unproductive growth, which sapped the strength from the plant and produced no tomatoes. By the end of the day our hands were covered with sap from these suckers -a thick, dark green, pungent grime –hard to remove.
Rain did stop our work. We were simply moved to the tomatoes in the large greenhouses. There it was hot and humid –the ideal home for an unwanted guest. While Peter was tying a plant to a stake he suddenly screamed and leapt back. Why the commotion? What was wrong? Certainly we were regularly stung by nettles, but that’s nothing to shout or scream about. That went with the job. Soon we discovered what had alarmed Peter. He had disturbed a beautiful resting snake, with a golden ‘V’ on the back of its head –a viper! That’s the only poisonous snake in the UK. Angrily it hissed, as it warned my brother to back off. Peter needed no second telling! Fortunately an adult came and rescued him.
For us those were idyllic days when we enjoyed rural life and were too young to appreciate the horrors of war. And we were earning money! This we invested in our post office savings accounts. Since we were taught to be frugal these gradually mounted up until some dozen years later Peter and I headed for the Dominican noviciate. Before leaving we cashed in our savings and bought a case each, to hold the clothes we would need.
These were no ordinary cases. True, they were only made of cardboard. But, with expanding hinges and lock, they could be enlarged to almost double their original capacity. They were known as, ‘Revelation Cases.’ And it was, indeed, a revelation how much they could hold. Apart from a couple of tea chests for our books, our two cases were sufficient for all Peter and I needed to take, when we sailed off for our mission in the W. Indies. That was in 1958.
Now, in 2013, I still have my old case. Though a bit battered it’s still serviceable –like its ancient owner.
As I reflect on my old case it’s quite a revelation! I’m delighted that it resulted from picking blackberries, and tending tomato plants, more than sixty years earlier. My case has become very much a part of my history, and I’m part of its history.
This helps me to realize that none of us can see how the small things we do can form part of a much bigger picture in God’s plan for us. They are like the individual pieces of an enormous jigsaw puzzle. Only when that’s completed will we see the whole picture. Only then will we appreciate how each piece fits in with all the others. And what a revelation that will be! I’m looking forward to that.
The next posting will be 24th May.