Today I bought nectarines in the market. Five big, dark fruits that will need several days before they’re anywhere near ready for eating. Five fruits that cost me £2.50.
As I walked home, I was thinking that if they ripen properly, they will be well worth it, but if, like so much produce these days, they ripen unevenly, or rot before they are truly ripe, I won’t be very happy: after all, they cost ten shillings a piece, and that is a lot of money.
I’m not sure what triggered that reversion to old money, nor quite what path it was that my thoughts followed past the old-fashioned rambling rose draped over the wall to the fruit-filled memories of childhood.
I found myself remembering when I was a child and my father would come home from work in the City bringing coconuts, fresh dates still on their brittle wooden stalks, figs, a pomegranate, a mango, too, I think on one occasion, Chinese gooseberries – now more commonly known as kiwi fruit, lychees, and other exotic fruits for us to try.
Of course there was no YouTube back then to find out how to identify when produce was ripe, nor how to peel or de-seed the strange new fruit. I do remember the toolbox being got out to deal with the coconuts – a gimlet to make holes to drain off the milk, and then a saw to open the shell.
As an adult, I’ve never bought a whole coconut, though I do occasionally buy it when I find it on the supermarket reduced counter; I’m not fond of Kiwi fruit, and neither pomegranate nor mango appeal, which may be because of those earliest encounters, when we really didn’t know how to approach them.
Mostly, I’d as soon eat raw vegetables as fruit, but when I lived in Spain it was a joy to have fresh figs, grapes and cherries. Now, like this morning’s nectarines, they mostly seem wickedly expensive.
If the nectarines ripen, perhaps they will warrant a photo, but for the moment, I’ll settle for this one, as an introduction to a poetry fragment. (I think perhaps the narrator would agree that life isn’t a bowl of cherries.)
I’ve never been completely happy with the whole piece, and I’m wondering if I can just cut it short like this:
Skin to skin we lie, while dawn
silvers the sky beyond
the cherry branches; your eyes
are full of sleep and dreams
pout your lips. I wander
between scenes of then and now,
of was and might-have-been.