Some things never change

Some things are still normal. Our early ‘Discovery’ apples are ready for eating, just as they were last year about this time. They are picture book red against a blue sky, I hold one in the palm of my hand and push slightly upwards – it comes away easily, so I know it’s ready.

I remember the hard-green apples of childhood, we pulled them off the tree before they were ripe, and the sourness wrinkled our faces and set our teeth on edge. We ate them all the same as we knew no other. This beauty in my hand today is such a contrast. I can smell its sweetness and its eau-de-cologne perfume. I can see its shining redness. The colour bleeds into the white flesh when I take a bite, it’s as if summer is locked in there and bursts out into my mouth

We are lucky to have this apple so early in the season, but there is a price to pay (isn’t there always?). One disadvantage is that Discovery apples do not last long. Once picked, they must be eaten within the month as they go off after that. This is not much of a worry, though, because we can easily eat them, they are so delicious.

The second disadvantage is not so easily overcome – the wasps like them too. We haven’t seen many wasps this year but the ones that are here love our ripe apples as much as we do. They cut into the skin and suck at the juices. I have to be careful not to get stung when I am picking.

The wasps are dying off, at this time of year, and we used to say that they had gone ‘silly’ as they desperately search for sugar. Sadly, it is all in vain because their nest is dying now and their larvae, that excreted a sugary liquid for them, have gone too. All the wasps will die soon except the queens who survive by hibernating in sheltered places.

There are other subtle changes as autumn rides in on summer’s shoulders. The screaming swifts have long gone and will be sitting in the African warm sunshine by now. I noticed them coming in May, but I didn’t notice when they left. It is hard to spot the absence of something and to know the last time you saw it. Now I think about it there is no chiff chaff either. When did I last hear it singing its rhythmical summer song?

When did I last go out to a restaurant? When did I last sit around a pub table with my fellow writers? I would have savoured the moment more if I had known that it was the last for a long time.

One thing I do know though, is that if I am sitting here eating an apple next year, there will be a wasp buzzing round me making a nuisance of itself.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

A wasps' nest in my bird box


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