Monday, 12 August 2013

Twentieth Century Cave Men

With a coal black stove pipe beard and a claret red shirt to complement his breath, Gilbert led me onto the forest and showed me my first crab apple tree.

Of course, I'd seen these trees many times before, but being a feckless youth I'd never troubled myself with trying to put a name to them.

So Gilbert, worse for wear although it was only 4 in the afternoon, did it for me.

He carried a wicker basket in the crook of his very brown arm. Naturally, he'd made the basket with his own fair hands. 'Look' he said. 'There's a crab apple tree.'

I looked at the tree and somehow I knew it was obviously so.

We walked along the white ridge and it came into my head to lead Gilbert to the cave made out of bricks that, if you were especially sharp eyed, could be found in a bank hidden by bracken.

Of course, it wasn't really a cave.

After all, primitive man would hardly have made a cave using red bricks and mortar.

No. These were were the sophisticated materials belonging to modern men like me, unable to name a crab apple tree that I'd passed nearly every day, and men like Gilbert, perpetually half-cut from trying to find a place to blend in, not be noticed in, in the dying light of the twentieth century.


  1. somehow your language projects me back a hundred years, and yet your story binds me to our current time of ignorance. wonderfully done.

    do you know how sad i was the other day running by a crab apple tree with a private, keep out, these apples are mine! sign on its trunk, and realizing that there were no apples this year for me to pilfer? we have (temporarily?) killed the bees that pollenate it.

    very sad.


  2. Thank you for your kind words Erin. Unfortunately, bees are having a very hard time of it now. But my neighbour has just started bee-keeping so we have had some in our garden this summer. As for that tree, you'll have to go midnight scrumping.

  3. I remember first hearing about crab apples and I wasn't sure whether they would be apples shaped like crabs, or would look like normal apples but have crabs crawling over them. I was bitterly disappointed to discover neither was true.

  4. Gosh, the images you have planted in my mind this afternoon. Thanks Kim!



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