DERNIER MOT - A Bowl of Cherries
It's my favourite month again. Wild flowers dance in the meadows, the sun is rehearsing for summer and everyone is happy; especially the Senior Partner who goes around screeching loudly and joyously out of tune.
Granny Eglantine, who is not only diabetic but vastly overweight, is gloating over her cherry orchard although the local "doctoresse" has banned her from eating sweet things - as she reminds everyone when she buys her daily pain au chocolat from the bread van.
"I'm not allowed to eat it, you know. I just taste it!"
Every morning Bernadette tuts disapprovingly and shakes her head.
"Ignore her!" cackles Eglantine. "She can't order me about!"
Personally I think she's right. What's the point in depriving herself? She's in her late-80s after all.
"Now Saman-ta! You go down to my orchard and get me some cherries!" she said yesterday, as she does every year. "Take as many as you like for yourself, too. There's eight trees down there. My father planted them before the war and he always said they would outlive us all... so you fill my little basket and I'll be grateful. Take those kids of yours too. They look hungry if you ask me!"
(Anyone weighing less than 16 stone looks hungry to Eglantine, a fact which the JMs have shamelessly exploited over the years, wheedling cakes and sweets and chocolates out of her since they were hardly old enough to stand.)
I love her orchard. The easiest way in is over the wall because the gate is too rotten either to open or to scale. So every year we clamber over the sun-drenched stone wall and enter another world. The trees haven't been pruned for 20 years, and the grass hasn't been cut either so it's like the African savanna in there. Silent apart from the rustling grass and a cricket or two, the loaded branches droop almost to the ground making cherry picking child's play.
For the first half hour, none of us even attempts to fill Eglantine's basket; we're too busy scoffing the huge black cherries and making greedy, delighted little piggy grunting noises while the dark red juice runs down our chins. But once sated, we fill all the bags and baskets and we're soon back at Eglantine's.
"Oh that's too many!" she says, as always. "I can't eat them, you know. I just like to taste!" She dips her crabby old hand into the fruit and removes one or two from the top.
"That's better," she says, putting the groaning basket into the pantry out of the doctor's sight. "I'll just keep these, but you be sure to go back and pick as many as you like. Just don't forget to be grateful you've got your health, not like me: a poor old woman obliged to live on nothing but vegetable soup!"
Back home again, the JMs still scoffing cherries from their bulging plastic bags, I get out my favourite recipes: cherry pies, clafoutis*, and sorbet are my favourite.
"Mmmm" says the SP wandering into the kitchen. "Something smells good. Could it be time for my annual rendition of "Cherry Ripe"?
"You're banned, Dad," said the oldest JM. "Unanimous decision. Sorry. Your singing is pitiful. Pathetic. Lame."
The SP looked utterly crestfallen and seeing his lip wobble I wished I had could comfort him. But his singing is truly dreadful.
Suddenly he brightened. "Okay," he said. "Victoriana is banned. But you can't ban Stevie Wonder!"
My heart sank but bless his cotton socks, there's no stopping the SP when he explodes into song.
My Cherry Amour.
* Cherries baked in custard.
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