Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A Glutton’s Guide to Cherry-Picking

It’s not over until the skinny lady screams. The last cherry tree is swaying with fruit. Not that the others were ever seriously emptied. The teenage manpower in this neck of the woods is studying for exams/sleeping off studying for exams/just sleeping off. I can’t tell you how many evenings I have sat pitting cherries, drinking beer, watching the massive poplar tree at the corner of the property which darkens and knots in the sunset. By that time I’m tossing cherry pits into the cherries and have brain surgeon’s hands…

At different times in my life I’ve been a city dweller, a suburbanite, a spoilt diplomat’s wife living in a gilded cage, a dependent living in a tiny room with a sweatshop underneath. In Mogadishu we lived near the National Theatre where singers sang long into the damp nights. In Milan our neighbours stared at my spiky blond hair. In Paris my employer made a mosaic of broken plates up the kitchen wall. In Accra I remember the three Rastafarian priests with high headdresses who walked like statues down the street – the same street American soldiers trained with their Hi-Ho-Sergeant-Major chants my kids used to ape in the yard.

But back to cherry-picking, a very pensive occupation, and the lifestyle that comes with it.

Slowness is good. Having a temperamental apricot tree is good. Playing Scarlatti at midnight with no complaining neighbours is good. Eating – afternoon after afternoon – more cherries than most digestive systems can cope with, is good. I don’t want to complain. You don’t know how many people wander through the gates and say You are living the dream! Ahh! While I stand there thinking – and the mowing? The weeding? The uninvited guests who turn up on empty Sundays when you’d love to read under a tree? How it’s time to paint the downstairs rooms again, plus the tree-trimming, the window-cleaning, oh and worst of all the endless, endless driving.

Now after quite a few years in the country it’s not the first time I am yearning for a turnaround. When I came here my kids were small and needed unity and serenity. (Or I did, to tell the truth.) We needed to be on our own, not tossed into another city web. The idea of parking and food shopping and traffic in a big city did my head in. I don’t know how women rush from here to there back to here again. I did it for a while and more than once found myself parked in front of the school, alone, wondering why the kids weren’t coming outside. They have long school days and short ones in Italian schools – who was I to know what day of the week it was?

But now, teens and adults, we are in that heft before big change again, when the city appeals, the country lags, and sometimes, just sometimes, this skinny lady yearns to live above a busy Parisian street, pop downstairs for a kir royale, go to the cinema without it being an expedition or a long tricky drive home. Can you have your cherry-garnished life without having to pick them?


* On Friday I have an interview up on the Romantic Novelist’s Association Blog, which ranges from ironing to character invention and back, with some pretty interesting photographs!


* Oh and here is last year’s cherry-picking post http://peltandotherstories.blogspot.com

7 comments:

  1. I'm much farther away from it than you but my pang is the same. As long as I don't have to care for any little ones, the city is the place for me!

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    1. I know you hear me! The country years have been good, very good, but I think everyone is itching to go. I do miss the big city no end. It's always bliss to breeze into Milan, but lovely to return home to all the green again. Tricky!

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  2. It's gorgeous, the way you've taken something that could be described as simply as "I picked some cherries, y'all", and have instead woven it into a lovely little tale with little philosophical musings too. This, of course, is why you have books to your name :)

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    1. Thanks Hannah for such a cherry-sweet comment! But I do think watching the cycle of life - as exemplified by the seasons of the cherry tree - does tend to make one ponder.. With sticky cherry-red hands of course.

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  3. This is truly gorgeous writing. And wouldn't you know it, I'm finishing off a bag of cherries as I read it. I so look forward to the cherries every season.

    I understand that awakening yearning you have. I'm longing to be back in Chicago already. I know we'll go back there, but the WHEN is still a question mark. xoxo

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  4. Thanks Lisa. It's so tricky isn't it, being a misplaced person. Going back home and leaving a littered path of people and experiences and animals and furniture behind us. I hope you get back to Chicago when the timing is right - I bet you'll find cherries there too!! Xxxcat

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