"Bitter berries make bad jam," I pronounce, dribble issuing from lipsticky lips. Then I dip my spoon into the bloodbath of strawberries. It drips as I raise it to my open mouth, then oozes over my tongue, alive with the scent of summer.
"Better, but not sweet enough," I nod knowingly.
Outside all is giddy with gymkhanas but here in the tent it's tense. Nobody breathes as I move down the line, relishing the role of produce-taster.
"Arabella Donnington, what have we this season?" I address a jar of green slime. "Gooseberry and Rosemary? More like toad. Do you really think you will win this year?" I plunge the spoon in and give the puss a vicious stir.
"You want that prize as much as you want him, don't you?" I snarl. "But he's ours. You'll be second again this year and for ever."
I lick the sharp edge of the spoon. Then take one mouthful, and another.
"Oh, but it's sweet," I am shocked. "Sweeter than anything. Nothing like I imagined. I can taste the metal of the spoon and the scent of rosemary takes me..."
The acid hisses in my stomach. My insides scream. The tent is upside down and my eyes grasp to focus on the coloured bunting, now grey and blotched. I dissolve in agony.
My mother and the other judges wander in through the flap, chatting. Then I hear gasps of panic. Someone screams in the distance.
"A child! WI tent. Call St John's!"
19 May 2016