Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields…..
(The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever)
My mother had a dream since she first came to visit us in the UK.
She has a few, and this was quite a modest one, really. And it is shocking it took me this long to finally make it come true. All she was asking is to be taken to the strawberry fields. Or, to be precise, Pick Your Own field.
Unfortunately for me, there is one of those places not far from here, and now that my daughter is big enough to enjoy the experience, I could not find any more excuses not to go.
We don’t have Pick Your Own fields in Baku. I did not know what the rules were or what to expect. I took a small bucket along, (just in case) but left it in the car, not to appear like I have just come down from a village up in the mountains, so to speak.
I drove down a narrow lane right to a small caravan with everything clearly marked all over it. Of course, I did not need to bring my own bucket. I was given a couple of small plastic punnets and directed where to go.
-Raspberries: further down on your right, blackberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants are to your left-explained a young and boisterous blond saleswoman.
-There are no more strawberries left though- she added.
I heard my mother sigh behind me.
We moved along endless rows of berry bushes, my child in charge of the punnets. I wonder how many get eaten?- I thought, plucking the fattest, juiciest blackberry and sending it straight into my mouth.
Having filled one punnet, we started walking towards the raspberries.
-Oh, - my mother exclaimed excitedly, bending down in an empty and abandoned looking patch- there are a couple of strawberries left! As she stood there, picking them up and showing them to my toddler, I heard the cheerful saleswoman shout something out across the fields.
She was far enough for me to have mistaken her crocked smile for friendly. I honestly did not see it coming. I did not realize we were doing anything wrong, to be honest.
So I shouted my 'excuse me?' back in a friendly fashion.
-You are supposed to pay for the fruit before you eat it! - She repeated with a sneer, as she kept walking away quickly ( in case I was brave enough to fight her, I guess).
I could not believe it. I felt like a little girl caught stealing. Oh, how I hate being told off!
My mother and I retreated to the heights of the raspberry bushes where we slowly simmered down, getting over the humiliation.
-They are all eating it!- my mother hissed angrily, as we walked past an old Englishman. Leaning on his walking stick, he was casually stuffing his wrinkly face with raspberries - It is because we are foreign! She felt comfortable telling us off!
Well- I said- they are all doing it- when nobody is looking! You, on the other hand, were bending down in the middle of the open strawberry patch, with no tall bushes around, your Azeri bottom sticking up in the air. It was pretty obvious what you were up to.
We laughed. Yet, our mood was dampened. As we walked back to pay the mean blond woman, I was going through millions of replies in my head. I thought I could offer to pay for the few berries we ate. I thought of suggesting they weighed customers before and after the visit. I thought I would ask her if she sincerely believed nobody else was eating any. Surely, in a business like this, one must have realistic expectations?
And if you think about it, they really did have a great business plan. Plant some bushes, and get these western consumers to do the hard work with their soft white hands. The consumers so bored with perfectly shaped berries, imported from Israel, beautifully packaged and perfectly preserved; that they would pay extra for the pleasure of getting their hands dirty. For the illusion of getting closer to the mother nature and locally farmed food.
I felt very foreign then. I felt humiliated. But I did not say anything to the woman. What could I say? She was right, and I was wrong.
My mother got to experience Pick Your Own, one dream can be ticked off. As for me,I decided M&S strawberries tasted a lot better after all.