Apricots

Does life lose its flavour?

At the house I grew up in, we used to have an apricot tree in the back yard. Our apricot tree was huge, with spreading branches covered, except in the winter, in bright green leaves. I used to climb it sometimes, but as the trunk forked only a few feet off the ground, and the upper limbs were too thin to hold my weight, I never got much altitude. I distinctly remember the tree had incredibly rough bark, and any slip guaranteed I would lose some bark of my own.

Next to the apricot tree was a stunted apple tree that never produced much fruit. During the occasional seasons when the small, rock hard apples did appear, Dad would cover the tree with a net in an effort to stop the birds form getting at them. Despite his efforts, the blackbirds would peck away at most of the fruit, leaving us with only a handful of small, not particularly pleasant tasting apples.

The apricot tree, however, was a whole different story, and every year it produced masses of fruit. The apricots would begin to ripen when the dreary Melbourne winter was gone and forgotten, replaced by the intoxicating blend of warm weather and the thrill of the upcoming summer school holidays. If a particular hanging fruit was not shielded entirely by leaves, one side would be a deep orange, and the other burnished red from the sun.

I would walk out to the back yard in my bare feet on a summer’s afternoon, and pluck warm, ripe, plump apricots from the tree. Biting into their juicy sides, they were sweet and bursting with flavour. They were delicious.

My Mum used to say ‘appricot’ (‘app’ as in phone ‘app’), instead of ‘aypricot’ (‘ay’ as in ‘bay’) like everybody else, and I copied her. People have always pulled me up on it, saying ‘it’s not appricot it’s aypricot’, but I like the fact that I pronounce it the same way Mum did. Mum used to say quite a few things a little differently because she was Scottish. In addition to her Scots vocabulary, she had her own unique way of pronouncing things. Me and my sister would ask her over and over to say certain words as they would make us laugh. Mum would then ask ‘Are you making a foolish of me?’ which would make us laugh more.

Like apricots have, does life lose its flavour?

We had a caravan, and as Dad was a school teacher, he had the same long summer holidays as us kids. We had six weeks of pure freedom, and would head off somewhere down the coast; Mum, Dad, kids, dog, surfboard, pushbikes, banana lounges and beach umbrella. Before we would leave, we would pick all the apricots from the tree. Some fruit would get frozen for the year ahead, others kept for jam, and the rest we would pack into cardboard boxes to take away with us on our holidays.

There was a drawer in the caravan kitchen into which Dad would place the ripest apricots, which would be consumed and then replaced with the next ripe batch from the cardboard boxes under the bed.

We would have enough fruit for the whole beachside summer. I still remember, when the boxes were finally emptied and the remaining fruit placed into the drawer, Mum would say ‘Well, that’s the last of the appricots’.

Perhaps I was spoilt as a kid, as I have never again been able to find apricots that tasted anything like those from our apricot tree. I used to buy them from the shops every now and then, and they would always be small and hard, and would mostly shrivel rather than ripen. Those that did soften had no smell, and they tasted of nothing. Consistently disappointed, I eventually gave up.

I was in a supermarket in Plovdiv this week and saw a big box of apricots on the shelf. I hadn’t tried Bulgarian apricots; maybe they would taste like a real apricot should? I bought eight. When I got back to my apartment, I opened the bag and poked my nose in. I drew in a long breath and smelt….nothing. They were, however, soft-ish, so later on I ate one. It had no flavour at all.

Maybe as you get older, life’s bag of apricots just loses its taste. I have certainly felt this way since my midlife crisis began. Sure, there are brief moments when I get the full flavour, but there is an awful lot of time in between when things just seem bland.

I know you are not supposed to live in the past, and this is an ongoing struggle for me as my mind constantly drags me back in time. But I still like to think about the apricot tree, my Mum and Dad, caravanning holidays, childhood summers, and the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy The Simple Things, ‘Regret and remorse. Amends and atonement. That’s life, right?’

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Comments

4 responses to “Apricots”

  1. Helen and Geoff Avatar
    Helen and Geoff

    Fantastic=we really appreciated your writting.

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      Hello Helen and Geoff, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m sure you remember how good those McMeckan House apricots were too!

  2. Changa Avatar
    Changa

    Redskins and Twisties are no longer as good as what they were either, when I was a blue tongue

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      Haven’t had Twisties for yonks, but the last time I ate a Redskin it was kind of pink and fluffy – the texture and colour had definitely changed and not for the better

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