Miles Kington: How to safely pick wild fruit, the New Labour way

Do remember that the word 'blackberry' may have racial overtones, just as 'elderberry' may be offensively ageist. 'Berry' is fine

Thursday 24 August 2006 00:00 BST

Hello. New Labour here. We've got a message for you today about the picking of wild fruit.

At this time of year, there are plenty of blackberries and elderberries and other fruit in the hedgerows, and you may well be tempted to go out and pick them. And why not!

Well, we'll tell you why not. Because there are all sorts of risks and hazards involved, and in order to guarantee the health and safety of everyone, we have introduced some new optional guidelines this year to make sure there are no mishaps.

It is for the good of everyone if they are followed. That is why we are making them compulsory.

1. Many wild fruit are guarded by fierce thorns, so gloves should be worn at all times.

2. Wild fruits, especially the most attractive, are often "just out of reach" and difficult to pick, so a stepladder should always be taken on a fruit-picking expedition.

3. It is quite dangerous to use a stepladder in the wild, so when a ladder is used to pick fruit, at least two other people should be present to hold the ladder and the fruit container.

4. Fruit picking is exacting and tiring work, so pickers should be allowed a break of at least 10 minutes every half hour.

5. Fruit juices are often liable to stain, so protective clothing should be worn.

6. And gloves.

7. Not the same gloves as in para 1, which are thick protective gloves, but special additional stainproof gloves.

8. Some fruits growing in trees, such as damsons and cherry plums, can be reached only by climbing the tree. Such trees should be climbed only if they have been previously tested for climbing, and have been declared safe, and been given a "Climb Safe" certificate.

9. The container into which the fruit is put should not be made of any breakable material, such as a glass bowl, nor of any material which might harbour infection, such as basketwork and wicker, which should be boiled before each use. Plastic is strongly recommended, though only if guaranteed non-inflammable and combustible.

10. When a team of three or more people go out to pick wild fruit, at least one person should be of a different race and creed from the other two, so that berry picking may be a truly multicultural activity. And do remember that the word "blackberry" may have racial overtones, just as the word "elderberry" may be offensively ageist. "Berry" is fine.

11. If half or more of the persons involved are under the age of 12, then a member of the social services should be present.

12. For reasons of national security, fruit picking should not be done with the aid of any pointed object such as nail-scissors, tweezers, penknife, corkscrew, paper-cutter, screwdriver, cutlass, sabre, etc, etc.

13. Wild fruit picking should not be attempted on any stretch of hedgerow which is not guarded by CCTV surveillance.

14. Wild fruit should not be picked by any illegal immigrants to Britain who have been lured here by rosy prospects of work, have failed to find it, and have been driven to desperately feeding themselves on wild berries in the hedgerows, which are available by right only to British citizens.

15. Wild fruit is dirty and therefore should be washed as soon as picked.

16. And should be cooked by boiling as soon as brought home.

17. The premises in which this boiling takes place should be hygienically inspected at regular intervals by HM inspectors, who will also make sure there are adequate toilets, first aid arrangements, fire exits, etc.

18. After each fruit-picking expedition, a form must be filled in and returned to Defra, recording the quantity of each fruit picked.

19. Infringement of any of these regulations may lead to a heavy fine or prison sentence.

20. These rules have been framed for the enjoyment of all, to make wild fruit picking a pleasurable and risk-free activity.

New Labour says: Have fun!

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