Saturday, 27 October 2007


Off we go to the community orchard again, scrumping apples. This time Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are all with me. This is extra handy when planning to make super large jars of chutney with ginger and red onions, which is Tiger's new recipe.

Squirrel's easy to get up trees thanks to the weekly ballet, gym and trampoline, and she's off up into the branches with just a bit of help from a well-placed hand. She's a bit harder to get down, first because she won't come down, and second because she has to throw herself at me and I have to catch her. Since she's not got the ballet thing thoroughly worked out yet and I'm not Rudolf Nureyev, the catching bit is a little awkward. Actually, it feels like someone just hurled a four stone kid at me from a great height and I continuously worry about how an ambulance is going to get into the community orchard when the paths are so narrow.

Shark is more of a problem both ways. She's heavier and has a more substantial rear end. This she has to position on my shoulder so she can scrabble with her legs up the tree bark while holding onto the branch above. Once up, she's more determined than any of us to get the ones just out of reach, even when it's pointed out that I've got her in the wrong tree and the apples we're after are in the tree next door. No matter. She's not coming down. I furnish her with a long stick to wave about and she's busy for half an hour.

Tiger is lazy, like me, and shuffles around the ground, picking up fallen apples, and occasionally shouting threats to the apples things like 'Come on down. We know you're up there'.

After a productive hour of so of our various techniques we're all making our way steadily back to the car with two bags each when disaster strikes. An old man is taking his dog for a walk and he's taking it through the orchard. Worse, it's not on a lead.

Within seconds Tiger's dropped her apples and disappeared up a tree, as has Squirrel. Shark is frozen to the spot. I stand in front of Shark and pick up a fallen bit of apple branch and point it menacingly in the direction of the dog, whispering to Shark, 'Don't move.' Anyone would think the pooch has an AK-47 Assualt rifle in its paw. Well if it has, it must be looking for cats, because it doesn't even bother to acknowledge us, and leaves me feeling foolish while the old man glances sideways at me, suspiciously, like I might be about to rob him of his pension or kill his dog.

Once the danger's over Squirrel launches herself at me again and Tiger jumps elegantly down, like this is something she can do all along, but just keeps quiet about. Shark has a grumble about being the one left to pick up the apples.

But I tell her that every cloud has a silver lining. The sum total of two heavyweight girls pushing each other out of the way up an apple tree is twelve more apples for the chutney.

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