The two medlar trees by a rather sombre, fairly modern house on a route I take every week are dropping so much fruit all about that no one seems to be collecting I was determined to try by fair means or foul to get hold of a reasonable quantity of it. So this week I stopped on my way home and somewhat trepidatiously took the steps up to the door at the side of the building which seemed to be the main entrance and rang the bell. There were windows a-plenty open, and I was sure I heard movements and voices inside, but no one came, so I went back down and gathered an armload of dropped ones. As I was doing so, a cheery group of bin men stopped at the house. A young black guy saw my haul and grinned,
'What are they?' he asked
'Medlars (des nèfles)' his mates replied in chorus, and before I knew it they were all jumping down, picking up the fruit, chucking them about and engaging in an excited exchange about them with which I was eager to join in but I was a little afraid that all the brouhaha would draw the house's inhabitants out. I repeated a couple of times that I had gone to the door to ask first...
'No, they aren't ripe, you can't eat them like that, you have to wait for them to rot...'
'Can you make jam with them then?'
'What country are you from then?'
Etc etc. Only in France, I'm inclined to think, would you end up in a discussion with a group of bin men on the gastronomic properties and virtues of medlars. I scooped up another armful and tossed them into my basket in the car, and we went on our way, the bin men giving me a merry bip and a wave as I passed them.
The foraging bit between my teeth, I decided to stop at the sawmill and fill the boot with offcuts for firewood. If you stop on the opposite side of the road from the mill itself, and only take from the piles of oddments, not the tied together bundles, it's free. It's well seasoned and sometimes there are some very nice chunks. It's a bit grubby but my car's used to it.
That done, I walked Mol down the avenue of poplars and turkey oaks approaching the château of Bogard, then rang Tom to put the kettle on. Just as I was approaching Beau Soleil, I thought the final cherry on the cake, as it were, would be to pick up one of the delicious-looking rosy apples that had been dropping on the verge there all this autumn to munch on the last leg of the journey home. I pulled over, left the engine running, shut the door behind me, ran across the road, picked up three apples, ran back... and couldn't open the car door.
I had shut the buckle of the seat belt in it. This happens quite frequently, perhaps because of the two-door Saxo's design, perhaps because I have to have my seat a long way forward, or perhaps, as was pointed out subsequently by our friendly, treasured, but sometimes annoyingly know-it-all garage man M Turbin, because there is a rather clumsy velcro-attached thing on the belt to pad it against your shoulder, put there by the somewhat large people who had the car before me and which I've never taken off, which stops the belt from rolling back properly and makes it hang awkwardly. Hwever, it has never before resulted in jamming the mechanism of the door handle.
Everything, except for me and the apples, was in the car: keys, bag, mobile, Molly... the engine was running and the passenger door was locked. The woman whose apples I had scrumped at this point leaned out of her window and looked curiously at me.
'I have a problem.' I told her.
It was my greed (gourmandise, not quite greed as we scarcely reconstructed protestant Anglos know it, but I'll save the comparative semantics for now) that has caused this, I confessed, I was stealing your apples. This didn't seem to worry her, fortunately.
'Hold on a minute and I'll get a wire.' she said, and came down with an unravelled coat hanger. This didn't work. Her arm was thinner than mine and she was nearly able to reach the button of the passenger door but not quite. Molly barked a bit but happily didn't attempt to savage her, and let her stroke her nose through the opening. Then she she said
'What about the boot*?'
Why hadn't I thought of that? Of course. I opened the boot to reveal my haul of scruffy firewood. Poor Englishwoman, she must have thought, reduced by the dismal exchange rate and the dwindling value of their savings to gathering old bits of wood and nicking apples.
'Would you like me to climb in?' my saviour asked kindly. I assured her I could do it, scrambled in ungainly fashion over the wood and the back seat and asked her please to close the boot behind me. The door proved to open perfectly well from the inside, the engine smelled a bit warm, Molly was pleased to see me and the tea was well brewed when I got in. I confessed my sorry tale to Tom, who said 'Serves you right for scrumping', which Adam might well have said to Eve, I suppose.
Unfortunately, the door handle is broken, and M Turbin can't fix it till Tuesday, as he and all his suppliers are 'making the bridge' - taking a long weekend around a public holiday, so I am having to open the passenger door and lean across every time I want to get into the car, which is slightly less undignified that clambering in the boot. All my frugality will be set at nought against the cost of the repair, I dare say, though our gallant garagist will always try to get a cheap salvaged part for us, which probably means I'll have a pillar box red door handle on my bottle green car, further to remind me of my folly (actually he said he's spray it for me if that happened, and perhaps it wouldn't be necessary if he could just rehook the mechanism, so fingers crossed).
Anyway, here are the medlars.
After research into the bletting process, I have arranged them on straw in an old winebox under cover in the woodstore, so I'll keep you posted as to their progress.
* trunk, if you're American. This post seems to be one that almost requires a glossary.