It is that time of year when something in the quality of light, the mist or the day-length, or the heady scent of sun-warmed blackberries in the air, turns the mind to jam. I hardly ever eat jam but nevertheless the compulsion to forage for jam jars in charity shops is irresistible. One day last week I went home with a complete stranger who thought she might have some spare jars under her sink.
In an area like Mid-Wales where we all spend more time in natural light and so are primitively tuned by the seasons — I am not alone. I pick up the last bag of sugar from the super-market — ‘we’ve run out three times this month’. says the lady at the check-out, ‘I don’t know why!’
‘Bake-off!’ says a young man from another planet who is queuing with his minimum-price-per-unit-of-alcohol lager.
‘Jam!’ says the pretty girl with the toddler who is transferring lemons from his mother’s basket onto the conveyer belt.
‘What a useful little boy!’ says I, ‘Lemons! I need lemons!’ I rush off to grab two — two large unwaxed lemons, I remember it is two because I work out the economics of it ( two large ones for 80p versus five little economy ones in a net for £2.00 — bastards!)
When I get back to the checkout my husband has arrived and the lady has already put my other shopping through and is starting on the pretty girl’s– I thrust my two lemons at the lady who adds them to my tally and takes my money as my husband embraces the shopping (bags cost 5p in Wales and I am forgetful and mean) — we struggle out with arms full of disparate shaped packages and bottles all determined to escape even if perishing in the attempt.
By the time we get home they are more compliant — even the three lemons. Three lemons! We’ve only gone and stolen one of that poor girl’s lemons… And after she reminded me!
Now something very Welsh occurs.
I go to my neighbour down the lane and have a nice glass of Pinotage — that’s not it. She used to work with the young man buying lager in the previous paragraphs, I recognised him, the one who was chatting to the pretty girl with the toddler — well he would, wouldn’t he? My friend rings him — he doesn’t say ‘Ah yes, she’s a cousin to my brother’s wife,’ but he does know her sister and, unusually for Wales, he knows her surname which is not Jones — she doesn’t live here but told him that she is visiting her Dad. Bingo — we’ve got her.
‘But how did you find me’, she asks somewhat anxiously. Oh dear, has she come home to Wales to escape a stalker, an abusive husband or the Inland Revenue, has she stolen away this attractive child and come to ground in the middle of nowhere only to be given away by a renegade lemon.
No, she remembers where she is. She relaxes. She thanks me for the lemon.
Glenys, the Lemon — that is who she is now, in our local nomenclature, like Dai Bread, the baker, who won the lottery and became Dai Upper-crust!.