Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


My father-in-law has been losing his balance and falling over while picking apples from his apple tree. I said I'd do it for him. So yesterday Ailz and I were at the in-laws bungalow and I harvested what was left of the crop. I also picked the pear tree clean of pears.

When I was a kid we had a little orchard at the top of the garden- apples, plums, pears. Rationing was still in force and to have your own source of fresh fruit was enviable. People used to make lots of jam (my father-in-law still does). We had an air-raid shelter in our back yard and that's where we stored the apples we weren't going to use immediately. On pallets, wrapped up in newspaper, in the dark.  That place was scary. You had earth piled over you- an artificial hill with an elder bush planted on top- the whitewash was peeling, there were brick-dusty spiderswebs hanging off it and the air was thick with the sweet smell of rotting apple-flesh. 

When I was in Cambridge (studying to be a priest) we lived in part of an old rectory and there was a huge, old apple tree at the front. Someone explained to me that the apples were a very rare- if not obsolete- Victorian variety. There were other, smaller apple trees round the back. We were living on bent pins and  pocket fluff so it was great to have all that fruit for free.

My ex brother-in law used to be a fruit farmer. I remember visiting him in an orchard once. The grass was full of windfalls- tons and tons of them. "Don't you gather these?" I asked. "No, not economical," he said." This was in the pocket fluff days and I was shocked.

I've read that the apples in the Bible are really pomegranates. Eve's apple was a pomegranate, the apples in the Song of songs were pomegranates. Not the same, is it?  Pomegranates are silly, messy, fiddly things. You need utensils to eat them. But an apple you just twist from its stalk and it's yours.

Apples are mythic. Atalanta chases apples, the Hesperides recline beneath an apple tree, King Arthur retires to an apple-island.  I shut my eyes and the light is dim and green and there's ground mist between the rows of trees and we're back in the middle ages or the dark ages and something wonderful or terrifying is about to happen. They're all apple trees, of course.  Pear trees, plum trees, just wouldn't do.

I like my apples hard and sharp. Those cotton-woolly French apples are an abomination. Cox's Orange Pippin, Braeburn, Granny Smith  for eating; Bramley for making sauce or putting in pies. 
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