The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Green apples

green applesChildren fall in love.

My mother had a student house in Cambridge. Mainly for foreign students that attended The Bell School of Languages. Sometimes there was an English student; Mr Lowe when I was very small and Roy when I had grown up a bit and had just started school.

Roy was my dream man. Kind and gentle, he played with me and told me stories. I knew that he would marry me when I grew up. I was certain about this. I’d knock on his door. We would play. Then he’d have to work at his desk.

A new student moved into the house. Dorly. She was Swiss and tall and chic. One day I knocked on Roy’s door. He didn’t want to play anymore. His eyes slid back into the room. I spotted her in a second sitting in a chair with her back to the window. She was silent and cool.

This was OUR window where we’d stood and watched the acrobat squirrels, the old fence where the magpie had landed and the place that the roses opened their arms and stretched over from the garden next door.

I hid in the corridor hoping for a drama. I iimagined Dorly throwing open the door and striding away for ever. After a while the door did open and they both walked away from me, hand in hand, laughing on the stairs.

After a while I slid into Roy’s room and closed the door. My mother dictated that all rooms were out of bounds to us when the students were out. But Roy’s room had always been my room, so this rule didn’t count.

Beside the neat single bed was an enormous bowl of beautiful bright green apples.

They looked so fresh and crunchy. Roy had probably counted them. He’d know if I took one. I peered out of the window hoping to see something extraordinary happening on the fence so I could race to Roy, tell him and win him back.

The apples looked more and more appealing. I had a brain wave – if I took the teeniest bite out of an apple Roy wouldn’t notice. He’d just think it was a scuff mark.

I sat on the hard bed and reached for the bowl. It took a while to find the perfect apple. I took a bite so tiny that I was just eating skin. I checked the apple. The bite hardly showed. With a racing heart I took a miniscule bite from every apple in the bowl and the arranged each one bite side down.

That evening my mother confronted me.
“I want to talk about Roy’s apples. He bought themfor Dorly but every apple in the bowl has a small bite mark. so she turned down every one. Do you know anything about this?”

My mind raced..
“Well, I heard a knock on the front door. When I opened it there was a little old man standing there. He told me that he was very tired and asked if I had a bed where he could sleep for an hour. I’d seen Roy leaving the house so I knew that the room was free and I led him upstairs. He lay on the bed and immediately fell into a deep sleep. Later on, he knocked on the playroom door and thanked me before he left. If I had known that he’d do that to the apples, I wouldn’t have let him in.”

My mother glanced at me and continued to stir her sauce. I knew that she hadn’t believed me.

I didn’t know why.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna,

    What a wonderful story about your husband! Childhood is such an intense experience and so many adults seem distracted.

    Sweet grapes on Mull! No wonder Antonia was furious!

    Hi Minamoo,

    Thank you so much for such an encouraging comment!

  2. That was the loveliest story Fiona! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. It really put a smile on my face….Yet another reason why my day just cannot really begin till I’ve had my fix of cottagesmallholder-ness. 🙂

  3. What a lovely story. It reminds me of the family story involving – I think I’m not casting wrong aspersions – my husband and a cousin or two. They wanted to eat the grapes that were growing on the south-facing trellis (in MULL, seriously!), lovely sweet grapes. But they knew Antonia would be cross if they did. So they thought she’d never notice one from each bunch. So they ate one from each bunch. So she was far far far crosser than if they’d eaten a whole bunch – how were these little boys to know she was growing them to enter a show? Last time I went to that house, decades after this event, the vine was still there, producing the sweetest grapes …

    And, yes, children do fall in love … and tell wonderful stories to their mothers 😉


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