June 25, 1976
I travel to Blairgowrie, Scotland with three of my high-school friends. Although we are Yugoslav citizens we are allowed to work in Great Britain if a British citizen offers us temporary employment. We have work visas for six weeks and we join other students in a summer camp.
July 10, 1976
The sky is gray most of the time. Finally, the sun shines for more than two hours. My bucket is half-full of strawberries. With both hands I pull off the ripe berries while I’m careful not to squeeze them. The bucket can’t have any leaves, stems, or straw because it would spoil the jam.
It is 10am and my fingers are swollen. When I pinch off the green stem a tiny bit of fruit juice drips on my fingers. Then the straw around the plant sticks to my hand. I marvel at the perfect berries and taste another one. Delicious, like each one I had before. I never thought that a fruit could grow to be this sweet under a gloomy Scottish sky.
I earn 3 pence per pound of fruit. I wonder how many buckets I will fill up today. I’m determined to earn the most I can. If I work hard by the end of the day I’ll have 3 or 4 British pounds, unless it rains.
Clouds gather, again. I pick up the bucket and remove strands of straw. The rows of the strawberry fields go on forever as I walk towards the white umbrella in the distance. That’s where the foreman weights and checks the fruit. If it’s good it goes into the barrel marked with the name of the local canning factory. He also records the weight next to my name. If the bucket doesn’t pass the inspection the picker gets a warning. After the second warning the picker is not allowed to work for the rest of the day.
A truck arrives taking away the full barrels. I am surprised the crop is so huge in this rainy and cloudy weather. I rinse my hands and hurry back to my row.
I remember the song Judit and Ildiko sang to us before we left for summer vacation: “I’m going to strawberry fields. Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about. Strawberry fields forever.”
I walk among the endless rows of dark green plants with red fruits hanging over the yellow straw. The sweet scent is all around me. The white flower petals blow in the wind revealing the green berries. By the time we finish this field the new fruit will be ready for harvest. I glance at the storm clouds then crouch down and focus on filling up my bucket.