Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chairs and Cherries

Sitting has become a problem. A too low seat or sofa gives me great difficulty in getting up. In some instances I just cannot make it. Having to be manhandled to my feet is not an enjoyable experience. Especially when it is a strange loo – one of the several reasons why I’ve stopped going out and calling on friends.

Years ago a young friend had bought a new sleek sports car, very low-slung. I carefully manoeuvred myself down into it. I confess I did not enjoy the drive – I felt too low on the road and therefore vulnerable. Unlike being cox of a rowing four when the craft glides over the water with its thin shell – a lovely sensation – I felt unease and was pleased when we stopped. But even then I couldn’t make it (my illnes in its early stages). I recall the embarrassment of admitting that I needed assistance.

So I’m careful where I sit. I have a favourite chair in the apartment. It faces the N/E garden with its potted plants, roses, abutilon (the tui still calls daily) and camellias. Beyond cabbage trees and a copper beech. This morning after breakfast from that chair I watched several honey bee working over the lavender bush.

Baxter’s line about ‘passionless industry’ sprang to mind. It’s from his poem ‘Wild Bees’. He wrote many poems about mankind’s fall from grace. Rarely better than in this poem which is why I selected it as one of my choices for ‘These I Have Loved’. The word ‘purposeful’ might be more accurate than ‘passionless’ But I understand what he means, ‘blind instinct’ whereas the marauders raiding the nest did it by choice. We ‘fall’ by choice.

Of course I could argue if we were set up to ‘fall’ is that a choice. Don’t go down this side-alley, Harvey.

I turn the chair around to watch TV. Visitors express concern at seeing me labour at this task and rush to help. I wave them away. It’s good for me to have a little exercise and if I’m puffed too much I can always collapse into the chair and until I get my breath back. Yesterday I watched the DVD ‘The Last Station’ – Tolstoy’s last days. [That murky Russian consciousness with dramatics]

This afternoon I’ll watch or should I say listen to Verdi’s opera Don Carlos at Milan’s La Scala, produced by Zeffirelli with Pavarotti singing. I look forward to that.

The neighbour’s crabapple tree has a splendid blossom crop this year. I presume the bees fertilise the flowers. It has hardly borne fruit the last two years. Maybe this year.

I also included another Baxter poem about a peach tree, so laden it broke.

A bonus in my childhood was Aitken's orchard which in summer and autumn was full of ripe fruit trees. In the early days the peach trees there were covered, Pop Aitken used to prop up the boughs. But then leaf curl arrived and the peach trees stopped flourishing. As he didn’t spray, suddenly the annual peach crop was greatly curtailed.

Between Aitken’s place and widowed Mum’s cottage was this orchard. - the second best in Little River. Coops who'd early established the mill to cut the local totara had the best. As well as peaches it had large apricot and plum trees and apples and pears galore,

It was the perfect place for children - lush grass to burrow through, well-established trees to climb, make-believe tigers to stalk or be stalked by; furthermore Pop Aitken didn't mind our playing in it or picking the fruit. “Help yourself,” he’d say. There was more fruit than his household or ours could eat, all summer the aroma of decaying fruit wafted from the orchard through our house.

Several large plum trees grew close to our fence. In the fork of most gigantic, one could sit and gorge, the fresh juice sticky as it ran down one's chin. The quinces we left for the adults to deal with. Mum’s brother Charlie lived across the road with his wife Thora and their three daughters. Mum and Thora would bottle and bottle, while us five kids {my younger brother Douglas brought up the number) would play, climb and gorge and assist in the harvesting.

The only place we had to ask permission and get the key for was the cherry cage - about twenty trees surrounded by wire-mesh. Balancing near the top of a cherry tree, my face streaked with red, marvelling at the miracle that could turn sap and sunshine into such a delicacy, the ripe fruit all around me, is a grand childhood memory. We could eat our fill and take away buckets full. We did both. It’s the nearest thing to heaven I’ve experienced.

Part of the joy of cherries is their brief season. The fruit from wild cherries was eaten in the Middle East and Europe right from the beginning of civilisation. Turkey is at present the world’s biggest producer. I recall buying a bunch in a market in central Greece. The old Latin tag ‘Et in Arcadia est’ [I am in Arcadia] rang true as we ate cherries and the bus bounced on towards Olympia.

I used to time visits to see Mum prior to Christmas in time to buy cherries at Marlborough as I passed through. My drive south could be traced by the cherry stones thrown through the open window as I went. A big box for Mum. And on the return trip a big box for us – a pre-festive treat.

1 comment:

  1. Great cherry memories, Harvey! Here in London we get the Kent cherry growers at our local farmers' market in cherry season - sadly brief but oh! how I love it. They bring two, sometimes three varieties each week, the queues for the stall snake around the site, and I eat no other fruit during that glorious time. Love, love, love 'em. Seasonal fruit is such a joy.
    But one thing - you never see Morello cherries on sale any more, or anyway I don't.