IF I were to say that I spent the best part of last week beating the living daylights out of trees in my garden, you would probably think me mad. But if I added we were then joined in this curious behaviour by friends and most of the villagers, you would, no doubt, correctly assume that it was a matter of nuts: almonds, to be precise.
We happen to have landed in a field of some 188 almond trees, which each year need pruning and picking. My husband, whose ancestors were all of Yorkshire farming stock, is practically lyrical about it, while I – frankly – prefer my nuts in a small dish with a cool glass of cava in a suitably snazzy bar.
Even with a small yield this year (much of the blossom blew away in the storm before being pollinated, according to resident experts) there was still a whole lot of trees to whack, as the many calluses on my hands and the odd head wound will attest to.
But I have to confess, it is actually rather cathartic, this nut business; any pent-up anger or energy is easily dissipated by swinging a two-metre long metal pole at a branch, followed by the highly rewarding sound as a cascade of nuts drops into the strategically-placed net.
Not to mention the work-out for the arms; I might take up tennis again now that my swing is back in tip-top shape. I think I even have the grunt down to a ‘t’, assuming they still allow this on the courts after the Wimbledon grunting debate earlier this summer.
And it is not just me who has taken leave of my senses; some smartly-dressed friends, innocently expecting a leisurely afternoon on the terrace, got stuck into the final few trees with laudable gusto at our harvest fiesta crescendo.
It was a veritable mud-bath, after the deluge of rain. Even so, it has been years since I have seen so many truly delighted people, who left with heavy bags of freshly-picked almonds. Sure, the reward of the wine and Jamón Ibérico may have eased the workload, as did the university musicians strumming in their fine outfits, and the hilarious ‘seed dance’ by the Gatecrasher comedians, but still!
Deep down, do we all have an inner farmer desperate to come out? Maybe even Victoria Beckham would finally smile after a session with the nuts in our field.
Overwhelmed by technology and social media, perhaps many of us have lost touch with nature and Mother Earth. “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the eulogy goes, so perhaps embracing a bit of terra firma mid-journey will help us make sense of the cycle of life.
Before this gets too morose, I would like to point out that you are still far more likely to find me in the local Champagne bar than knee-deep in a muddy field.
But, come next harvest time, you can be sure that I will be the first to take aim at those pesky almonds, even if it will take the best part of a lifetime to crack them, let alone finish them all.
Next week’s article here in Euro Weekly News will be: ‘Inventive ways with nuts’…