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"Imagine having to take a bite out of a strawberry!" someone said to me indignantly. Indeed so. The best strawberries are smaller than a finger-joint, and burst against the tongue with an almost tart sweetness.

You would have that people would know better after seeing what happens to marrows, for instance, or water-melons or pumpkins: the bigger they grow, the less savour they have. But no, even in our own favoured market strawberries have to be at least the size of a small mouse. Last year, we noticed a couple of stalls selling smaller fruit apologetically marked down as though they were somehow guaranteed to be inferior. Sad, very sad.

Thanks once again to my parents' extraordinary ideas, I was brought up to think "small is beautiful" long before I'd even heard of economics. And I was in the Sixth Form before the "small ones are more juicy" campaign briefly vaunted the merits of oranges the size of a cricket-ball. I think we sometimes found wild strawberies in the beechwoods behind my grandmother's house in Holte, though I'm more certain about the equally delicious wild raspberries there. I know they were one of the rewards of walking – sweep on, sweep on, ye fat and greasy citizens – down the long drive to IBM La Hulpe, and I couldn't understand why no-one else ever seemed to spot their jewel-bright scarlet. And in the summer of 2002 I found a large patch of exquisitely sweet wild strawberries in the picturesque decay of Diegem cemetery.

In the Thirkell novel of the same name, wild strawberries are a mild extravagance David Leslie, debonair and bone-idle man about town, promises his cousin Mary. As you'd expect if you knew him, the idea drifts out of his head as easily as it drifted in; but Mary finds a far more suitable companion before the end of the book. And for all his faults, David has some wonderfully scathing comments on the BBC.