Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


Slogging Apples Part 1

autumnIt is autumn and everywhere I walk I see fruit. Apples are filling the trees, elderberries are being snaffled by the magpies and the last of the blackberries are going to waste on the brambles. On Saturday morning we met a couple with a homemade grab, out trying to find some sloes which are in short supply this year. The red of the hawthorn berries may still add colour along our country roads but that beautiful deep purple of the ripe sloes isn’t seen much anymore. What was once a plentiful fruit is now difficult to find, due to the disappearance of our hedgerows, which is a great pity.

One morning last week I went out collecting apples. There is an old house just up Ballyard Hill on the right which appears empty and I’ve never seen a sign of life at any time of the year. In the back garden is a solitary apple tree, surrounded by high grass and ground elder. The tree always has a good stock of apples; old fashioned red and green ones with a lovely tart bite. It is difficult to get to the tree and as you walk through the long grass you trod on firm apples that move slightly as you step on them.

This year someone else beat a path through, which made my way in that much easier. I had with me a pink umbrella which my daughter picked up somewhere when on a rainy night out during the festival. It made grabbing the branches easier and my bag was full in a few minutes. Back in the car I decided to go for some of the red ones I had spotted a few days ago, farther up the road. This tree is in an orchard beside a small white house, which is well kept but again I never see a sign of anyone when walking by.

I park a bit down as I don’t want to drive in, just in case I give an older person a fright. I knock at the door. No answer. I knock again, no answer. I walk over to the hedge surrounding the orchard and contemplate helping myself. There are a few trees, a mixture of the big, rosy, red eaters and strong looking cookers. I hear a few steps from behind the house that make me stop and I look around to see a man approaching who looks as if he is about the hit me. He is walking fast and not asking questions.

“Just looking at your lovely apples and wonder if I could pick some for the kids.” I say without hesitating, letting him know I’m not a threat, dropping in the reference to the kids as a bona fide.

“Oh, no problem,” he says stopping and smiling a bit, “don’t know if there are many good ones left though.”

He turns towards the top of the hedge and I follow.

“Ah just a few will do,” I say.

He opens the wooden gate and leads me into a muddy patch of ground. I pick up the first apple I see.

“Don’t take them off the ground,” he orders, “they’re only bruised, leave them for the pigs. Take them off the trees.”

“Thank you,” I say and start picking the red ones my kids might like. I hear him talking to someone on the other side of the hedge but I never see who it may be.

After a few minutes he comes back in, still looking at me oddly but now only from thinking I’m a bit strange and not a threat.

“Did you get enough? There are some other eaters here,” he points to a tree inside the gate, “at least I think they’re eaters, might be cookers.”

I take one off the branch and bite into nothing you could buy in a shop.

“That’s an eater and it’s gorgeous,” I say.

“You’re right,” he says, taking one for himself.

I head off, thanking him for the apples and he closes the gate saying that I’m welcome, though without an invitation to come again. Thinking about it afterwards I suppose it is a bit odd to pull up outside someone’s house and ask to take fruit from their garden. In my defence I had assumed they were going to waste. They obviously aren’t and those pigs won’t be needing much apple sauce come their harvesting time I reckon.

“I’ll see what the kids think,” I say.

“Sure isn’t that what it’s all about,” he says philosophically.

He’s right too but back home the kids have little interest and I’m the only one eating them. Now the tray of apples is in the spare room. Lisa says it smells like a brewery in there but I don’t want to throw them away yet.

I have another idea which might be worth exploring.


Posted by John Verling

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