Mrs Llew came in from the garden. She was wearing a flowing, cotton summer dress. Actually she had put it on to do some decorating but it’s an old and graceful favourite and may go back to when we lived in a spacious Edwardian semi in North London, its high ceilings edged with friezes of plaster grapes. We still have a small water colour of that house, with its crumbling boundary wall and original front door – the fanlight and stained glass… The picture was painted by a friend of our younger daughter. We lived in that house for 30 years.
On the palm of Mrs Llew’s hand today there rested a great leaf of a broccoli plant. And nestling on that was a cluster of plump raspberries, just picked. Their ripe pink was set off by the deep green of the leaf. This was the first of the crop from her half dozen bushes – and the first time they had fruited after being planted two years ago. She offered some to me. I took one to share the moment. The rest were rightly for her.
The sudden, unique tang of that sweet small berry, for a moment, dominated my senses. Time ceased to exist.
My family will remember our raspberry plot in London. That patch, 80 feet from the house beyond an ancient and battered pear tree, was maintained by me, if you can call it that. It was a wilderness. I seldom obtained any assistance in harvesting its crop. Stinging nettles and brambles deterred the children and Mrs Llew was convinced a lion would leap out of the undergrowth at her.
She thought she was proved right once when some thunderous crashing was heard in the long grass and bushes. I remembered a book we read to the children: ‘Thump, thump, thump, here comes the meat-eating dinosaur.’ They loved the safe terror of it.
What appeared that day were two small tortoises, their addresses painted on their shells. They had come 200 yards and crossed a road to visit us.
We carried them home to their grateful owners.
Footnote, June 15, 2011: Mrs Llew has pointed out that there was only ONE tortoise.