|Sweet wild cherries|
We leave the vineyards behind and hit fruit tree alley; kilometres of cycle path’ lined with orchards. From the night blue of the ripening plum, to the seductively pink cherry hanging from the tree just waiting to be picked, the colours are set against a blue sky with clouds like people paint them in murals. But I feel a bit like Adam. I can’t eat the apple because, while it’s not entirely forbidden, it’s not mine and stealing it would set a bad example to three impressionable kids. Well that’s the theory in any case. In reality, every cyclist and pedestrian has their hand outstretched as they pass to pull a pear, or pick a plum, and I start to feel a bit prudish. Eventually I give in. It seems cruel to deny the kids a taste in order to feel good about being an upstanding citizen. We will be gorging magpies like the rest.
But I don’t want them to do it in the best orchards. Instead we select some random trees by the roadside, and send the kids in by stealth. First Matthew tentatively picks an apple, which comes away immediately in his hand, It’s pale green with a hint of pink, and he bites into it with enthusiasm declaring it the most delicious apple he’s ever tasted. Then we progress in our thieving academy to plums. This time both boys give it a go, picking what looks to be the ripest. We all take a bite of one, it’s tart but juicy.
|Vinyards and orchards… all so tempting|
But then there’s a shout and a smartly dressed short man charges out of the bushes, crying, “Don’t eat those” in German. Despite our limited knowledge of the language, its clear we have violated a rule. “Oh God it’s the owner,” I say, dropping the plum like it’s hot. I try to formulate an excuse in German about the educational benefits of examining fruit trees up close, while the man thrusts a bucket at me. It’s full of fat blackberries. “Don’t eat those plums, they’re not ripe,” says shorty. “Eat some of these.” He pushes handfuls of the berries he has obviously spent some time and effort nicking, into all of our hands, and another handful into the buggy for Hannah. They are ripe and delicious and guilt free as someone else has stolen them for us. He’s no policeman, he’s a kindred spirit.
But then we get more confident. We squeal as we spot apricots and pears, pretending to stop and examine the map, then the kids bomb in. The cherry trees are declared the absolute favourite. We have to restrain them from stripping the branches.
As we move out of the countryside and into the town, heading for the city of Mainz, the kids tell me they need no vegetables tonight. They’ve had their five a day. In town, boxes of fruit sit on window ledges with prices attached. I wonder if they’ve been stolen too. But with a price tag on their heads they look less appetising, less succulent. Less naughty. Fruit’s better when it’s forbidden.
|Mainz by night|