Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


Caught Slogging

With a room sslogging-part-2melling like a brewery and apples about go to waste, it is time to act. Somewhere around town, I think it was on the library noticeboard, I read that the Moyderwell Allotments on Dean's Lane run an apple pressing service every Wednesday morning; that library noticeboard is a great source of useful information, much more so than any online service I read. The sign says to bring apples and sterilized, watertight containers. The containers I have but I will need more apples.

Behind the garden where I first got some apples I noticed another orchard of at least five or six trees. The trees looked laden down with red, juicy apples and I head up there on a sunny morning after Fred goes to school. Daisy comes with me and I stuff a bag for life in my pocket. The orchard is behind a well cut, beech hedge which is in full autumn colours and it looks almost painted in the morning sun. It really is a magnificent time of year when the rain and mists hold off until the trees have lost their leaves. I find a gap in the hedge and head into a plot of high grass and brambles.

The trees are dotted around the top of the land and below them is a cleared spot, which looks as if it has drills for growing vegetables, so maybe this is not as abandoned as I first thought. I look at the trees and grab the low hanging fruit along with some good ones off the ground; when pressing apples the quality of the flesh is not important, as it is the juice you are after. Just as I take a bite from a lovely hard red one I notice a bit of movement among the vegetable drills below. There is a man, possibly in his seventies bent over a drill, with a fork in one hand keeping him steady as his other hand digs in the earth. How long has he been there I wonder? Should I sneak off before he notices me or should I approach him and ask his permission? I decide my days of slogging apples are behind me and I walk out from behind the tree and down the little plot towards the digging man.

“Do you mind if I pick some apples?” I ask.

He looks up, doesn’t seem surprised and I’m not sure if he knew I was there or if he has just spotted me.

“Not at all, help yourself,” he answers.

By now I’m not too far away from him so I keep walking down as far as the top of his drill.

“I’m sorry I just walked in here, I thought it was an abandoned orchard,” I continue.

“No, not abandoned at all,” he says laughing, “this is all mine.”

“Lovely morning.”

“It is, isn’t it? Are you the man who called to my wife yesterday asking for permission?”

“No, I live down the road and just spotted the apples when out walking.”

By now I’m standing beside him and I can see he’s digging potatoes.

“Where do you live?” he asks.

“Just down in Springwell Gardens. I presume you live in the house through there?” I point to the back of a house just visible through now obvious gap in his hedge.

We continue to talk like this for a few minutes. He tells me how long he’s lived here and how he kept the orchard and vegetable plot going when they bought the land to build the family home.

“I better not keep you any longer,” I say becoming conscious of the fact I’m not an invited guest.

Do you want some potatoes?” he asks

“Love some,” I say and the friendly man picks a few fine spuds and drops them in my bag.

Now it really is time for me to go; I’ve been caught stealing this man’s apples and he’s making me feel doubly bad by giving me some of his freshly dug potatoes too.

“Thank you,” I say and as I turn he says uses that phrase which couldn’t be more appropriate when handling potatoes:

“Are you from Cork?” he asks.

“I am, are you?” I say laughing and he nods, smiling too, probably recognising where we could go with the line of conversation.

“Yes, where are you from?”

“Cobh,” I answer, “and you?”


We look each other in the eye now, looking maybe for some recognition in each other’s faces.

“What’s your name?” has asks in a gentle lilt.

“John Verling,” I answer.

He stops still at this and looks directly at me: “Verling?”


“Did you by chance have a relation who worked in Aer Lingus?”

“My father did,” I say smiling, feeling that the conversation was going somewhere.

“Michael Verling?”


“My wife was his secretary.”

We both laugh at the surprise, as this would have been at least forty years ago now. He sticks the fork in the freshly dug earth.

“Come on down she’d love to meet you.”

“I’d love to meet her,” I say and follow him through the gap.


Posted by John Verling

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