AS EARLY AS SEPTEMBER and the mania for Christmas shopping has already began with the paraphernalia of Christmas goodies taking pride of place in supermarket shelves. The gaudy and brash packaging seems to shout out, ‘come and buy me!’ Thank goodness, nature is impervious to all this capitalism while its bounty of ripening fruits has no price tag and is free!

So my wife and I prefer to ignore the tied of impending commercialism and prepare for Christmas in a more relaxed manner by visiting the countryside in search of the abundant sloes and blackberries that grace our hedgerows. Our intention is to pick enough berries to make sloe gin and blackberry brandy in good time for Christmas. It takes a good three months for the full flavor of the sloes and blackberries to diffuse themselves into the alcohol, so September is the best time!

The long and prickly blackthorn forms a formidable defense for anyone brave enough to pick the sloes and I always end up with painful cuts in my hands and arms. While picking the sloes it’s easy to get distracted by the beauty of a wondering bird, butterfly or dragonfly, that can still be seen basking on the tops of the branches while soaking up the last dregs of the autumnal sun.

Sloes hanging from blackthorn branches with dragonfly watching like a sentinel from his high perch

In the course of a very pleasant evening we managed to pick enough berries to fill up our rucksacks. Arriving home we greedily unpacked our bounty and started preparing the berries straight away. In the process of making sloe gin we noticed a grub on one of the sloes. I quickly grabbed hold of my camera and documented its progress as it gorged itself into the sloe. What follows is a narrative sequence of images showing the advancement of the greedy grub.

1. Grub is looking for a suitable spot on the sloe on which to have his picnic.

2. The grub looks into the camera as if to say, ‘this looks like a juicy spot.’

3. The grub starts to munch away the sloe.

4. As the grub starts tunnelling it carefully puts into a neat pile the juicy morsels of the sloe to one side of the hole.

5.  The hole is getting bigger and the stack of munched-up sloe is piling up. Good time to start another pile on the other side of the hole. This grub is clearly no slouch – and you thought grubs were untidy.

6. Grub is clearly making good progress and will soon vanish into the sloe.

7. Grub has disappeared into the sloe and is no doubt feasting himself.

8. Here’s to you grub, you’re not the only one who’s going to be feasting himself. However, we’ll need to wait until Christmas before the sloe gin is ready to drink.