An extract from "The world's oldest trees – a travel journal by Rosalind Jane Currey"

3) This entry is a little different to the others, but that is natural considering my experience on this particular day has been unlike any other.

I had heard that somewhere in central England there was an ancient apple tree. England is much smaller than I imagined. There are many more motorways, cities and industrial sites. I think I was expecting to wander into a Sherlock Holmes novel, or a dramatisation of Wuthering Heights.

There is countryside however and though far from breathtaking, it has a certain charm. Poor Donald would have enjoyed it all so much, the strange accents, the little bakeries and all the tea – everybody drinks so much tea!

Legend has it that the apple tree was planted before the Romans landed on ancient Britain’s shores. And that Oliver Cromwell sipped cider made from the tree’s fruit as a youth, and the drink was so foul that he vowed never to drink again.

I had a story recounted to me by and elderly typesetter at a traditional printing house, he swore that the town and area surrounding the tree, were bombed disproportionately so, when compared to other parts of the country. Locals claim that the Germans were trying to destroy the apple tree to get at the hearts of the British people, how they lay waste to Westminster.

It should be noted however, that according to the landowner of the plot which contains the tree (who also boasts that his family has had stewardship of the apple tree for a thousand years) that mother nature has been gentle with this particular national treasure. He assured me that mother nature has distinct preference towards natural beauty as opposed to the man made, citing the nineteen sixty six flash flood of the River Arno, where water flushed unexpectedly and disastrously through Florence, soiling great pieces of art and carrying away swathes of medieval culture off into the wash.

According to local superstition, as an outsider I was not permitted to see the tree. Safe to say, on learning of the aforementioned belief, I was a little more than perturbed, but despite my pleas, my insistence, even my regular repetition of “the distance I had travelled” the locals were steadfast, and I suppose, now I have calmed down, quite admirable in their stoicism. I did however have the peculiar honour of witnessing the village’s monthly tradition.

You’re probably imagining a maypole celebration, a rutilant cheeked wassailing, or perhaps the closing scenes of nineteen seventy three’s “The Wicker Man”, you know, the fire fresh, we watch the cerise sunset with a shaken curiosity, even after the credits have ceased, still watching, waiting for some happy intervention. The truth, for better or worse, was much more sedate then any of that.

I would like to go into details of what happened that evening, but truly I remember little. You see my curious honour was that of a cider taster, the infamous cider of local legend, and from what glimpses remain I can attest to its sourness - bitter enough to push a man into Puritism and onto the eventual road of revolution? Who can say.

What I can say however, is that the morning after drinking cider made from the oldest apple tree in the world, I felt in relatively good health; no hangover, only a lingering sadness.

No comments:

Post a Comment