This autumn is drunk with colours and fruit. Red-blushed, in their own sweet time, apples have been falling with soft thuds onto the dewy lawn for weeks. Each morning they blink at me, and shout – help, pick me up, the slugs are coming. They’re good for something, but did you know that slugs and snails are hermaphrodite, and lay up to 500 eggs a season? Re: fruit, after last year’s poor crop, this year’s harvest is a tad overwhelming. The scale by which nature balances excesses evades rational comprehension.
Too much of a good thing brings obligations. Eaters taste best when fresh, so I’m urged to act fast. Slug-nibbled and bruised fruit lands on the compost heap. The bulk of apples, several kilos a day, I wash, dry, box and put out on the road for passers-by, mainly kids on their way home from school. This time-consuming and noble deed has left me exhausted, and with numerous bumps on my head. Here’s the apple saint, drop now. For lack of a resident family to boss into cider-making, I’m left with ‘waste not’ ringing in my ears. If you remember scarcity, you’ll co-suffer the enforced hypocrisy of a twenty-first-century system that thrives on waste.
I could blame the nagging ‘waste-not‘ guilt for frustrating the flow of my writing. I could blame three early morning trips to London on crowded trains, or alien dust settling on my skin … whatever … my body succumbed to the annual purge of flu. So a week ago I sneezed and coughed through fever and chills. Sweaty nights occasioned surreal dreams and visions, and there were days when I lost faith in my invulnerability, reminded that I need to clarify some matters in my Will. I survived - with tons of lemons. You’ve guessed by now that I’m shy of conventional medics, a story I won’t regale you with. The last official need for a doctor’s visit to my home was benign, and over three decades ago, after I’d given birth to a healthy baby in deepest rural Somerset.
So last Sunday, following a week of altered states, I ventured out to put petrol in my car. I support small enterprises for their human idiosyncrasies. The cashier gazed absent-mindedly over the forecourt and across the street towards a line of taxies, while automatically debiting my Visa and, at my want, pressing another button to produce a tax receipt. Sensing a process at work, I said, ‘You’re bored.’
His head moved independently from his neck. You may remember the craze of bubble-head mascots: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobblehead that’s exactly how his head moved while his eyes rolled in their sockets to take note of my witnessing. His mouth then rounded and huffed before emitting a speech he must have rehearsed all morning. Slow, precise thoughts poured out, including snippets of existential dialogues he had had with taxi drivers from across the road. Written down, it could have edged itself towards some literary prize. His exposition ended with : ‘Nothing to be done. I’m bored stiff.’ Reminiscent of Beckett. Promises, waiting … in tune with my dull-witted flu-states. Missing most words, I was captivated by the man’s brilliant and spooky slaying of meaning. Another customer entered the cubicle. On leaving, some wise-crack in me I’ve no control over, said, ‘You’re reading …’ thinking, you’re observing life from a distance, co-creating its absurdities and joys. It’s what writers do.
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This post was meant to be short and about my son and his partner, to brag a little.