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National Differences 1, October 2006

Posted by babychaos in General Wittering.

Today I find a quince lying in the street. Fresh and clean, it has fallen off next door’s tree during the night. I take it, thinking it is a pear and later, having discovered my error, I realise I must now search for some apples to cook it with.

I know where I will go. The park. There are apple trees and at this time of year there are always fallers. Then I remember it’s Sunday morning. On Saturday nights the local teenagers, high on their first joint or sherry and with nothing better to do, throw the few fallers the munincple mower has missed on Friday at each other or the wall until they shatter in an explosion of fragrant pieces. Today is no different. I find a mound of shrapnel and three rotten fallers. Not too bad, at least I have some ammunition. I throw the rotten fallers at three of the apples on the tree and dislodge another two…. but now some women have brought their babies and dogs to the park to play and they are looking at me askance.

Nobody else eats the apples, most of us living in the neighbourhood agree that we hate seeing them wasted but by actually picking them I am crossing a boundary. I am bending the laws of decency in a way that is very un-British and I am doing it because an eigth of me is pure hunter-gathering French. I hate to see food wasted, especially tasty food like these apples. Yet by taking the apples, I am stealing them, albeit from the Council, who let them rot. I wait until the women are gone but curtains in the surrounding houses are twitching. The rotten apples are beginning to break up and if I throw them any more, someone might call the police. But I need more apples and I need to get them without doing the kind of things that will make the neighbours think I’m drunk and 14. No climbing the tree or throwing things at it is allowed. I know what I need! A 10ft stick with a v in the end. As luck would have it, I use just such a stick to prop up my washing line.

I run the 30 yards or so to my home and return with my 10ft washing prop complete with its handy v in the end only to find a family have arrived to play. What to do….? I only have one quince and I’ve cut it open so I need to get some more apples or it’ll go brown and go to waste. I only need three more apples so I decide to go ahead and pick them anyway. With my washing prop I will be done and be gone before anyone can call the police or get to the park to yell at me. I try the tree furthest from the family but the apples aren’t ready so I go to one of the others. They smile so I say hello and explain what I am doing. They don’t seem to disapprove at all and I am surprised.

I place the v of my stick under two apples in succession, lifting them up. If they are ripe they will fall and not even the smallest twig of the tree will be broken in the process. They are and they do. I realise the father and son are watching. The little boy asks if he can help. Surprised I “pick” the apple he points out. He wants a go too. I give him the stick and steady it for him. His dad comes to help so I let him take over. He bashes the apple so I explain the technique. It falls. They are delighted. The little boy smiles at me and takes a huge bite of his newfound prize…. He speaks to his dad. Then I finally understand. Of course they don’t mind. This is normal behaviour to them, they are French.



1. Geldoff - 2, October 2006

Oh what unnecessarily guilty secrets we must hide to be British and proud of it! I feel sure that our American cousins would consider the apples to be fair game and perhaps take the tree too :-)). ‘Propfall’ beats windfall every time.
Geldoff. PS (shameless apologies for the awful pun in advance:) do windfall apples become ‘pommes-de-terre’?

2. babychaos - 2, October 2006

Oh ho ho Mr G. Very funny! Propfall was better!

3. lea alissa - 3, October 2006

how sad to let fruit go to waste. and how cool that the family in the park were french! 🙂
i wish there were parks like that here in the philippines. i imagine we would have mango trees instead of apple trees. 🙂

4. babychaos - 3, October 2006

I just wish I lived in the Philippines, period! 😉 Seriously though, yeh, I guess we are pretty lucky.



5. mrsmetaphor - 7, October 2006

Geldoff…I can’t speak for the whole of the US but at least in the big cities we would probably not even notice they were growing there. Do apples REALLY grow on trees? LOL

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