Apples don’t grow at the supermarket (and the wonderful feeling of jamming).
This is not a post about music, but also it is. So let’s stay with it for now, and then take a clumsy segway to the subject in hand.
This journal is is dedicated to anyone who can feel sudden and inexplicable tears when a song comes on the radio. Anyone who is taken somewhere else but the commute to work. Anyone who can smell the dusty sleeve notes of long ago albums, or the muddy slime of long ago festivals. Anyone who hears and tune and it triggers a moment or an emotion that can’t quite be explained.
Anyone lost, hopeful, in love, out of love, happy, sad, frightened or angry, and turns to music to explain why.
I don’t know if I like Baby Blue because it’s in the final scenes of Breaking Bad and it ended a perfect narrative, or because it’s a good song. The same goes for The Shins — do I like it because of that train platform to Farhampton, or because it’s a belter anyway?
If you are not a fan of these particular pop culture TV moments, these references will mean nothing. But I hope remind you of your own moments. They are real and powerful. It’s as if things that touch us in our life are filed away in tiny drawers in the doll’s house of our mind. Opened only by tiny musical-note-shaped keys.
I salute those who can create this music, or who create poetry or art, for the rest of us to enjoy.
I am now a parent, something that rewires your brain in many strange and wonderful ways. It has strengthened this emotional link to music, and created a whole new set of tiny memory drawers.
I now feel inexplicable emotion in lyrics that express the relationship between father and son, or talk of all the opportunities of youth. I didn’t expect this to happen, much as I didn’t expect to have the strange relationship that I do with Miley Cyrus. For a time, Malibu was Leo’s favourite song, and we used to play it on endless repeat. I would arrive home from work, throw my bag on the floor, pick up a big pile of books to read, take a big sniff of his head, and then away we would go. If I hear Malibu, it takes me there in a way that I don’t need to explain.
It also makes me passionate about musical connection, and giving him memories he will remember when he is old and grey like daddy. It can be through music, or through anything else — the important thing is the memories.
These journals evan began as an idea to do something fun, teach our little boy good environmental practices, and make memories. It also began in the hope that we can contribute to reducing the risk that we wake up one day and find that the world is not going to end in a cataclysmic or catastrophic event but gradually, and eventually, on a preventable wet Tuesday afternoon.
And that Leo would not have the opportunity to be a grown man in a cleaner world. Sobbing to a song from 2017 that he barely remembers but then remembers so well at the same time.
And so to this journal topic. It is perhaps one of the less radical ones. This week is jam week. I am making jam. Jammin. That beautiful, sticky, tingling stuff that we spread on toast, stir into yoghurt, or just eat with a spoon straight from the jar.
That is the clumsy segway from music to the subject in hand.
But for me, jam days are a fabulous memory, jam days are music. Jam is something I remember from my own childhood. It gave me a connection with nature which stayed on the surface with me until it was not considered cool anymore.
Jam days started with going out and picking fruit, often from the pick-your-own farms. I can’t remember if I did it a hundred or a few times. But the moment I open a jar of blackberry or raspberry jam then I am transported back to the heavy summer air. Sticky fingers, kneeling in the earth or dodging prickly branches. And the feeling of joy that comes from an overflowing punnet.
It is a joy that I have rediscovered on a different level now we are parents. It is a connection that I am passionate for us to continue in a new generation.
It was also the moment that I realised that stuff grew on trees, and on bushes. I feel this connection is one that is so important to nurture. It is a simple connection, but one sometimes forgotten in our hectic schedules and convenient lives.
A realisation that your chips don’t come from the takeaway. Your apples don’t come from the supermarket. Knowing nature, unlocks a magical world a layer removed from the convenient symbols of everyday life.
It unlocks a magical world of fabulous dirt. Of tractors carrying huge skeletal machinery. It creates discussions on food chains, and seasons, and weather and geography. And why pineapples don’t grow in our garden.
Being out picking fruit, gives you a chance to spot birds, beetles, bees and butterflies. Of listening for the rustle of a mouse, of catching the glimpse of a rabbit, or discovering a few bones or an interesting looking poo.
It is curiosity of the world around us. Edge of the seat fascination at photos of bananas growing, of understanding the dependency we all have on each other. It helps us to talk about hard work, of courage, of respect for where our food comes from and the people who grow it.
There will be years of traditional maths and other subjects in front of our children, but in some ways this will not prepare them for the challenges the world and the planet has in front of us.
In the future, we will need more strong and empathetic leaders. Individuals with new ideas, and with the strength of character to create change. We will need to challenge more traditions, push against systems, reverse more of what is seen as normal. Save more, consume less. Care less about what we have but what we can give. This kind of society needs a connection and a passion for nature. And a passion and connection for some of the values that put our planet above personal gain.
All of this from jam. It is a leap, but I am an optimist, and even the process of making jam can be an exciting, messy, imperfect lesson in life.
In fact, for many years jam making was also a wonderful mystery. That turning fruit into something spreadable and even more delicious was a kind of complicated dark art. Or required a deep knowledge of chemistry.
But for straightforward jam, it couldn’t be easier. It is way more satisfying than buying it at the supermarket.
Hand picking fruit is not always accessible, but if you are lucky enough to have a good bramble patch or fruit bush nearby, then making jam is as simple as this: weigh your fruit, weigh out in the same amount of sugar, and then boiling it like crazy for a bit.
Adding a few squeezes of lemon can also help, which is something to do with the pH of the fruit. If you don’t believe me, then check out this recipe for raspberry jam here. In Internet can also give advice on sterilisation of jars and equipment that I cannot.
Jam is even an option for any soft fruits going off in the fridge. You can even save up the last bits of fruit from the fridge over a period of time, and store them in the freezer. When you have enough, you can make a batch of jam.
You could call this Leftover Jam I suppose, I Googled it and it isn’t a thing, and so let’s all invent it together.
As we collected the fruit to make the jam, I hope that tiny fingers were making tiny drawers in Leo’s mind. I hope that in years to come, he remembers where we were, and what he was listening to, when we made our first jam.
We can draw a line between ourselves and our experiences, to nature and to the planet in everything we do. The world needs children who understand these connections, and who will become the adults that create change.
We cannot just do that by telling our children, we have to show them. We have to jam.