I left my concrete quarter of London so few times when I was growing up that when I arrived at university my inexperience with the countryside had become something of a joke.
Wearing heels for a hill walk, expecting it to have footpaths; describing all birds in relation to pigeons; crying tears of joy when I learned salamanders can grow back lost limbs.
My mistakes and amazement about the natural world were so frequent that at one point some friends started a pool, betting on how many times the urchin girl would be bamboozled. Of course, it all came from that specific, low-level-piss-taking place that British people call love.
But the steep learning curve soon plateaued, and it’s been a while since I’ve found myself agog at nature. Until yesterday. “There are berries on the bush,” said my boyfriend, appearing from the garden.
I followed him to the spot: plump and juicy raspberries, swinging in the summer breeze. The old feeling of ecstasy and disbelief washed over me: “You mean, I can just take these… for free?!”
I felt like a thief as I plucked the first few. “Nothing is free in life,” I thought, heart quickening and imagination firing, half expecting police to cart me off; or a branch to hang down with a contactless payment device (a whole new meaning to Apple Pay). Instead, I gorged until my lips were stained.
I have since told anyone who’ll listen about the impossible free lunch, but the chuckles are more at me than with me. I don’t mind: I’ve come to learn there are few delights as big as childlike discovery, and it is a gift to experience it. So I hope to always be a naif, constantly dumbfounded by the magic of the world. Perhaps it will make someone who had bet on me rich – but it’s me who will be richest.