I like apples. I just want to put that out there. I remember, as a child, eating so many apples that a grown man would have been sick from them. Probably even just from watching me eat them. I respect the apple as a package of deliciousness, and reject nothing but the stalk. I have tried eating the stalk. On many occasions, because I’m not a fast learner. What I have learnt from the stalk is that it is a great source of roughage but tastes of wood (another gastronomic experiment that I don’t care to repeat).
So I would happily have eaten 20 apples in a day. And we had an old apple tree in the garden, that provided real estate for a tree house, a swing, even a burial mound for Simba, the dog. A complete life for a child, food, shelter, play and death. Ah, what the youth of today, in their cotton wool-wrapped worlds, miss out on. They’d probably rather look at a digital picture of a tree than sit in one. Or pee off one, one of the finest pleasures available to both boy and man, teaching as it does, that fundamental law of physics, that the further you are from the ground, the more heroic a distance you can get your pee to travel.
I once travelled to Brazil and stayed in a hostel with a mango tree in the garden. I climbed that too and supped on the fine juicy fruit – 16 in a single day. Apples and mangos. Not many trees of the latter in Gloucestershire. A shame as apple and mango is one of my favourite crumbles, and I do make a fine crumble. The trick is to keep the butter in the freezer until you need it.
Yesterday, 22 September, was apple picking time. It had been proposed that it should be damson picking time, but when we reached the damson tree, they were not quite ripe. Another week and I will be scooping carrier bags full of damsons from the branches, purchasing vast quantities of brandy and vodka, and preparing this year’s supply of damson laced spirits. To merrily fill a hip flask with one’s own viscous, dark, sweet concoction of joy is only surpassed by the sharing of said flask with rain sodden individuals on a November clad hilltop.
Next to the damson tree was an apple tree. I don’t know the variety, but they are yellow and red, deliciously sweet and fruity (not rare in fruit, to be honest), and abundant in extremis. The ground was littered with them, and as I stood there, the tree pelted more ripe apples at its previous fallen offspring, layers upon layers of fruit.
The trees in the village don’t get pruned, so, where an orchard tree will have had half of its apples removed as buds to ensure the remainder are larger, these apples are much smaller and more to my liking. Some only single bite sized, most are about the size of a hacky sack (for any youth reading this and not getting the reference, look it up. Toys from before the internet…), and just the right amount to enjoy without feeling overfaced. Yes, I have felt overfaced by an apple. And also by a potato, or as the French call them “earth apples”. It’s not their fault, their apples just aren’t as good as ours.
I took a supermarket “bag for life” and filled it with windfall. I didn’t even make a dent on profusion I left behind. These were from a neighbour’s tree, but I still had another bag that I wished to fill. I returned to our garden and started on our own tree. Not the one previously mentioned, that one fell over in a gale and I cried. However its apples were very sour anyway – youth who read this, you are living in the future, when I grew up, apples were sour as lemons and rhubarb and gooseberries could strip the enamel from a bath. Sweet? Ha, we didn’t need it, we were men! Although possibly it left us stunted.
I filled a second bag, this time the apples were still on the tree, a slightly different variety – sourer, just as I like them. I now had two bags for life, filled to the brim with apples. Some of you are thinking cider, and I like that. However, I just put them in the car, and drove to my gig, where I then handed them out to my audience.
And now my car smells of apples. No stupid dangling christmas trees for me! Well, I say apples, but it also still smells a bit of the chicken poo and a hint of dog vomit. But I’ve already written about that…