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Plundering Plums on the North Coast 500


I make no excuse for returning to trees. At this time of year they are undergoing yet another metamorphosis. From deep green to various shades of orange, through to deep red. In September they are purely teasing us, slipping slowing into their early autumnal glory. Not quite totally brazen yet, merely brushing the edges of colour, a hint of what may come.

The tree pictured above doesn’t actually belong to me. It drapes itself over my fence, boldly advertising it juicy purple plums. “Come on you know you want me, just raise your hand and taste my juicy fruit.” The temptation is there, I mean how could anyone resist their blatant flirting? All I have to do it raise my hand, reach out and grab some. Well if truth be told, I would need to find a ladder or someone to be my accomplice. A fellow ‘plunderer’ with a bit, ok, a lot more height that me.

As a bairn it was almost a rite of passage. Only it wasn’t plums we had our eyes on. Our harvest was the apples, not long after they had started to become noticeable on the trees; then our planning would begin. It was never really thought of as stealing, at least not by us youngsters. Nowadays, it would be regraded in a much graver light I expect. But then it was more like a dare, a test of skills. Could you get over the wall grab a few apples and be out again without anyone noticing?

No doubt if our parents knew they would have been mortified but it was not their opinions that mattered. Nope, it was our friends or better still those who thought little of us that was important. We could achieve great status depending on whose garden you managed to get into. The more bad tempered the occupants of the attached house or difficult the feat, the more points you achieved with your fellow plunders. Mark you, I probably would have been pretty short tempered if all the apples I had grown were being stripped by a bunch of bairns each year.

Looking back given that we lived in a small town, the chances were both my parents and the apple growers knew what was going on but I never remember anything being said to us. There may well have been a reason for that and it lay within the apples themselves. They were I have to admit generally pretty rotten tasting. And there in lay a problem for us bairns. Whilst one apple was enough to make it a legitimate plunder; one bite was not enough to satisfy the rest of the young marauders. At least two bites were required of these small hard sour fruits, accompanied by the lie that they tasted great, for the plunder to be truly acknowledged. The bitter mouthfuls did however cure of us of any further visits that year and so the rest of the harvest was safe from our little hands.

These plums I know are different. They will be as sweet and juicy as they look. I know this as I have been the recipient of this horde for the last couple of years. My neighbour has been away at just the wrong time for her and the right time for me to fall heir to these fruits. I have an open invitation to use them. Is that why they taste so good because they have been given in such a generous spirit? Perhaps the plundered apples tasted sour before as they were stolen fruit or maybe I just couldn’t tell the difference between unripe ones or indeed cooking apples! Who knows, but what I do know is that these plums will be sweet, tasty and greatly appreciated.

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© 2020 by Ceitidh Hutton