Meeting up with Iso and Princeling for a coffee and and walk this morning, I took a jar each of the summer's red mirabelle jam and the aforementioned marmalade, and a card. The small boy nosed in the bag, and showed no disappointment that it wasn't anything he could enjoy right away; he stroked the glossy wrapping paper tops I put on the jam jars to his face and kissed the card when his mum showed him the message inside. The toy shop with the old fashioned pedal cars next door was still a draw, however, so I left Iso and Tom to finish their coffee and took him in with an offer to buy him a Christmas present.
He was very good, not demanding or acquisitive at all, and seemed mostly happy to look and pick up and move on, and uncertain about choosing. The rather expensive wooden toys that one always suspects are designed as much for adults' aesthetic sense as a child's amusement got a cursory once over, but anyway seemed too young and simple for him now. Better were the realistic and detailed good quality plastic models of animals and figures. Dinosaurs were popular of course, but also a rather horrid skeletal dragon, and zoo type animals; farmyard horses, cattle elicited little interest. In the end he settled happily for a clear oblong plastic tube with a collection of small zoo animals in it. which seemed particularly satisfying because it had a small elephant like the big one he'd picked up from the shelf.
He bore it proudly back to the café, but cheerfully refrained from opening it when the offer of a walk round the park was made. Once there, he still wanted to carry the new toys, but on seeing the things to climb on and space to run in, he laid the tube carefully on a low wall, rushed off and forgot all about it. Tom picked it up and slipped it into his coat pocket for safe keeping, but didn't say anything.
Half way around the lake, a good half kilometer on he looked up and asked 'Dinosaurs?'. No, said his mum, your dinosaurs are at home. But something was clearly dawning on him.
'Do you mean your animals you had?' I asked. He nodded.
'What did you do with them? Did you leave them on the wall?'
His arm went up, pointing across the lake, and a three-year-old's knowledge of time and distance slowly began to make a desolation of his face. There was no petulance, no peremptory fix-things-for-me-now demand, just a growing awareness that he had made a mistake, brought down a loss on himself and there might be no undoing it, it might be too late. He began to crumple, held out his arms toward his mother and went to bury his face in her body.
This all took place in the second or two it took for Tom to take the tube out of his pocket, and hold it out to him.
The clouds cleared from the face of the sun, but he walked along beside Tom for a moment or two and looked up at him from under his eyebrows with a look which was part gratitude, part embarrassment, and just the merest smidgin of mistrust.
The mention of the word 'bletted' the other day introduced the subject of medlars. Every week I drive past a medlar tree, which has been dropping quite large quantities of the fruit, which with the early frosts and snows, I surmised might be in the required, half-rotted state for consumption. Today I stopped and picked a couple up - it belongs to a private house but it looked as if no one was collecting it, the dropped fruit was on the road side, and the place looked fairly deserted anyway. I was merely curious, frankly the idea of eating giant rotted rosehips seemed a fairly unattractive one. But I brought them home, checked 'Food for Free' and on its instructions, scooped out the brown squishy flesh, a surprisingly large amount, mixed it with a little cream, and ate it just so. The verdict: absolutely delicious. I may have to go back and knock on the door.
Also, when googling to learn more, I found a rather smashing blog of an aficionado of the fruit ( and more besides), called Medlar Comfits ( the link to a post with the eponymous recipe).
As you see, they don't look much, but that only goes to show. Incidentally, shown above also, the smallest wooden-handled knife, a kitchen favourite which dates from a trip to the Loire Valley about 15 years ago, where I bought it to cut up mushrooms grown in caves there. It is very fine and sharpens well.
While we're on strange fruit, don't bother with these.
I think they're called horny melons ( OK, maybe I am angling for stats from sad people googling...). They look interesting but taste like mildly fruity frogspawn. Not very nice.
Finally, poinsettia. I've never had one of these before. They are a kind of euphorbia, or spurge. I like things like this and hydrangeas, with leaves that pretend to be flowers. I think I may have killed it with over-watering. Mea culpa.