The medlars are bletting to perfection; an old bronze in colour, evenly, heavily soft, their skin, like an old person's, the way my hands are becoming, holding the depression when pushed gently inwards. A few of them fail in this delicate balance of decay, and a hairy mould penetrates through lesions and spoils the taste with mustiness, but many of them are quite flawless. Sometimes when turning them and bringing in the ones that are ready, I stand outside in the cool damp winter air and pick a hole in one and suck the flesh out, as it's recommended you should. Something of dates, something of apple butter, something of spices.
Mostly though I bring them in, scoop out the pulp and freeze it in batches, planning a vast medlar fool for the turn of the year. I've developed a method of taking them apart: with a sharp serrated knife take the stalk end off and peel the skin away downward, then turn them over and remove the star shaped crown ( the 'open arse' in some parlance!), taking out the seeds with it, count these out, there are five in each, unfailingly. I sometimes lick the flesh off the seeds.
I stopped again at the rather dour modern house which has the trees in front of it, climbed the outside stairway at the side and pressed the button of the doorbell. After a moment a birdy old lady opened it - the bell didn't work, she said.
I asked if I could take some medlars, and she was more than happy, but said they were hard and sour, that she didn't really know what to do with them. I explained that I was ripening them, and we chatted a bit, agreed that, although jam was a possibility, we didn't in fact eat that much jam, and there'd been so much other fruit, the apples were overwhelming, but then the birds have to eat too... Now when the children were young, she recalled, they used to eat the medlars all the time. Don't they have a lot of big seeds inside? Take all you want, she repeated.
So I was able to shuffle through the leaf litter in the beds under the trees and find the unblemished, hard, russety globes with my feet ( the ones I picked up the week before had mostly fallen on the road surface so that many were damaged) and fill a cotton shopping bag with them, and these are the ones I've been gradually mining from the straw box in the barn.