Saturday, August 23, 2008
Tale of an Urban Forager
Something strange is afoot;quite literally. Due to the temporary closure of my local underground station, my walk home now takes me down some of the poshest streets in London. These are wide tree-lined avenues with huge nineteenth century mansions that are in a perpetual state of renewal. Every day a new skip is parked up against the pavement to receive the contents of someone's last-season kitchen or bathroom. This is the equivalent of plastic surgery for houses. Sometimes I rescue items from the skips. Occasionally the owner, standing proud in her spanking new designer room looks out and sees me and smiles benignly. I shuffle off with a plank of salvaged skirting board under my arm.
The other day there was trouble in Luxury Avenue.
"I cannot believe it. I have rung the council and they are not prepared to do ANYTHING about this. It's completely disgusting. My car is covered in mess. And it makes a mockery of the new paving stones", ranted Burberry lady to a tweed-suited man.
"I blame the pigeons", he said.
I stopped to see what they were complaining about. Burberry Lady and Tweed-suited man were peering at the pavement, which was covered in huge purple splats. The car roofs were also decorated with deep bluish-purple splashes. I followed the splats along the road, where they intensified at the end, reaching a crescendo of colour. I looked up. Above me was an ancient Mulberry tree, crashing through an old wall, leaning over the pavement. Ripe berries were scattered everywhere. I rushed home.
"Alex,I need your help - go and get the step ladder from the cellar."
I went into the kitchen to get plastic containers, baskets and put on an apron.
"Dad, she's lost it again," muttered Alex.
"What are you doing now? You have only just got home",said Chris. Having watched me spend the best part of two years obsess about strange vegetables,he had seen this all before.
"There are tons of mulberries and it's a complete waste. So I'm going to pick them."
I left, with my baskets and ladder. The good thing about living in London is that no one really notices if you are strange. Alex came with me,for the entertainment,if nothing else. We crossed over four lanes of traffic and found the tree which marks the boundary between Luxury Avenue and Scruffy Street. I knocked on the door of the house, ringing all the bell buttons, which were hanging by a wire. A young man opened the door, bending his head round. He appeared to be naked.
"Can I pick your Mulberries please?"
"What?", said Naked man, who I thought was Spanish.
"You have a Mulberry tree round the back and if you aren't using the fruit, would you mind if I did?"
Alex by now is so embarrassed she has crept out of sight.
Naked man is confused. So I mime the action of eating a berry and point to the tree down the street.
"Oh fruit - no problem. You must have fruit, yes."
So we set up our ladder. Curtains twitched as we piled up mulberries in their containers.
"Are you from the council?", said one passer-by.
"No I just like mulberries."
We went home clutching our ladder and full containers with purple-stained hands.
Please excuse our month-long absence from the blog but getting back into the swing of work and school has been all-consuming. We think The Great Big Veg Challenge might go a bit fruity. Freddie's refusal to eat yoghurt with bits makes me think that fruit could be our next big challenge. What do you think?