Sunday, 16 September 2007

Plum Picking and Other Pastoral Pleasures

When last Wednesday dawned bright and warm and the realisation came suddenly as it always does at this time of the yearthat summer's lease has all but expired, we decided to visit the Old Chapel. The Victoria Plum tree was full of ripe fruit and we knew if we didn't pick them they would go to waste. The tree looks pretty ancient and, as can be seen from the photo, somewhat neglected. I can't wait to tidy it up. The harvest proved to be less abundant than last year's but I still picked a box-full and they taste as sweet as ever. I've made three large jars of plum chutney which are now squirrelled away in a dark cupboard. The rest I shall stew and put in the freezer in manageable quantities.

I also discovered an apple tree that I was not aware of last year. This was because Jon gave all the fruit away to a friend before I got there. He'd come over to take away all the spot lights that had been left in the upstairs art gallery by the previous owner and I was at the White Horse Hotel half-way up the Chimney Bank with my parents. By the time we'd ordered, eaten and procceded sedately down to the chapel, it was too late and the tree was bare.

This year I was determined to both pick and identify the apples - and I think I have. I never knew until I began to search just how many varieties of old English apples there are. How sad it is that people without their own trees or friends and families with trees have to make do with Granny Smiths and Golden Delicious. It's like only ever drinking cheap Spanish plonk without ever sampling the rich variety from California to Australia via Bulgaria, Chile, all points inbetween them to France, by way of Kent.

However, I shall have to save that for my next entry. When I tried to copy and paste the information I found I lost the previous incarnation of this post as well and couldn't get it back, however much I swore and stamped.

We took a picnic into the garden and sat on the old bench and munched happily in the sun while we gazed around at the world that would one day be our home, pinching ourselves and hardly daring to believe it would ever happen. Building work won't begin until December and other problems have sprung up like leaks in an old hose pipe. We've had to go back to the drawing board with the wood flooring as the type we'd chosen was supplied by a firm we no longer have any faith in - not crooks exactly but prone to supplying more wood than customers order and then charging them for it. We've also had to change other suppliers we'd decided on for various reasons too tedious to go into here.

One black cloud in an otherwise perfect sky was my visit to the new shop in the village. It used to be the bakery. It was always a bit faded and grubby and I never fcould bring myself to buy any of the bread, sandwiches and cakes on display. It closed last year and was replaced by Molly's, a delicatessen, greengrocers and cafe selling a selection of wholesome whole foods and exotic chutneys, jams, pickles etc plus home made cakes, biscuits, quiches, pies, soup, pate, salads and ice-cream. I'd never had a chance to take a close look before but did so when Jon went off for one of his jaunts I call hikes but he dismisses as mere strolls round the block.

I walked in. Although it was Wedneesday afternoon the other village cafe/shop had shut as usual at 11am, Even so, Molly's cafe was empty and there was only two other customers - a couple not sure of whether they were supposed to sit down in the cafe and wait for a waitress or order from the counter. I wandered about for a bit. Two assistants were stomping about the place doing heaven knows what but whatever it was clearly was not to their liking. Neither smiled or greeted me - which is highly unusual in Yorkshire in general and Rosedale Abbey in particular. I smiled and said hello but met blank faces. I weighed up the strwberry and rosewater jam against the lavender honey but eventually pluped for a pretty bottle of honey, mustard and Irish whiskey salad dressing. I also fancied the look of their home made fare in the chiller cabinet, especially the tomato and basil soup but didn't want to buy it until I'd found out whether it had been made with vegetable stock. I went to the counter. I waited and waited and waited but no-one came. After a few minutes, a rather harrassed looking young woman came up to the counter to cut some cake to take to the cafe where the couple had rather nervously sat down. She said she'd be with me in a moment and I said that was fine. As I continued to wait, I could see into the kitchen which somehow looked over-cluttered which always makes me wonder just how clean it it. Time passed. I told myself not to get annoyed as this was the country and I wasn't to bring my rushed city ways to bear upon a more leisurely way of life.

Eventually, said harrassed lady returned to serve me. 'I see you're very busy', said I, without any hint of sarcasm, more to show her that I sympathisewd with her heavy work load than anything else. 'Oh no,' she snapped back. 'We're very quiet today.' I was then tempted to ask her what service was like when they were busy or why they were quiet when the village was full of tourists and the other shop and cafe was closed, but decided to keep my opinions to myself. I then asked her whether the soup was made with vegetable stock. 'Oh no,' she snapped again. 'We make it PROPERLY.' I wasn't annoyed by her opinion that a vegetable soup is better with meat stock but by the lack of any courtesy in her tone. When I worked in Waterstone's I always agreed with customers who opined that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for not stocking Barbara Cartland or we couldn't call ourselved a bookshop if we didn't sell diaries or toilet rolls. She could have showed that she regretted she was unable to sell me their lovely traditional country soup and that they might sell vegetarian-suitable food in the future if there was a demand. Was that too much to ask? I piad for my bottle of dressing and left with a heavy heart.

When I later told Jon the tale he said I shouldn't go ever go in again. But I will. First to see if said cross lady was the owner and/or if I'd caught her on a bad day. After all, the shop is only 200 yards or so from our doorstep and it doesn't do to fall out with neighbours until you've become a fixture in a village. Then you can be as rude as you like.
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1 comment:

Jane Smith said...

My very first published piece was a poem about picking plums. Look what it's all brought me to.

Your Chapel is gorgeous, Sally.