By Clare Jones
September and October are my favourite months and the one activity which gives me the most pleasure at this time of year is blackberry picking. I love to cycle on a sunny morning to a quiet country lane and on the edge of a field find brambles glistening with juicy blackberries. Philippe Delerm in his wonderful book La Première gorgée de bière et autres plaisirs minuscules devotes an essay to this simple pleasure. He likes to invite friends to join him:
– Vous viendriez cueillir des mûres ?
– C’est drôle, on allait justement vous le proposer.
“Would you come blackberry-picking?”
“Funnily enough, we were just going to suggest the same thing to you.”
It is the end of the summer and each family collects a pot of small black shiny berries (des baies), the adults talking of this and that (on parle de tout et de rien) and the children talking of new classes and teachers. Finally, they stroll home.
« On a cueilli les mûres, on a cueilli l’été. Dans le petit virage aux noisetiers, on glisse vers l’automne. »
“We have picked blackberries, we have picked summer. On the small bend with hazel trees, we slide towards autumn.”
If you don’t know this beautiful book yet, do take a look. It’s a book I go back to time and time again like a well-loved poetry book.
Here is the verb cueillir (to pick) in the present tense. Notice that it conjugates like an -er verb, as do the verbs ouvrir (to open), couvrir (to cover), offrir (to offer), souffrir (to suffer) and accueillir (to welcome).
je cueille, tu cueilles, il /elle/ on cueille, nous cueillons, vous cueillez, ils/ elles cueillent.
You might find the pronunciation a little tricky so here is a sound file.
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