“It was me!” I said.
My six cousins gasped as one, my mother blanched and my father glowered. Until then, this first holiday had been an adventure. There was all the excitement and novelty of the sleeper train from Scotland to King’s Cross and a train to Cirencester, to spend a fortnight with my aunt and uncle and their brood. In glorious sunshine, I paddled and guddled in the river, built shelters and careered about on an old bike.
But by the end of two weeks I was suffering. There were many differences in this foreign, distant land, not least in diet. Somewhere in an outhouse must have lurked a freezer stuffed with home-grown beans in all shapes and sizes. Each day produced another revelation as to what my aunt could do with French beans, green beans, runner beans and broad beans. Mercifully, accompanying the bean stew, soup or salad, were platefuls of bread and butter, hungrily scoffed. I had been used to traditional Scottish fare and soon my dreams featured waiters carrying silver trays of steak pies, fish and chips, mince and tatties – real food.
And that’s why it happened. In the garden grew two apple trees planted by my uncle. They had never borne fruit. But that year, one unblemished Bramley dangled low enough for a seven year old to clasp in both hands and devour. Uncle Jack was livid.
“That child ought to be horse-whipped,” he said, but I didn’t care.