I have just peeled an apple with a knife, paring the skin away in one piece, until it fell away, the shape of the apple not quite lost in the spiral of peel.
I felt as I peeled that it was a properly grown up thing to do – because it took a sharp knife and a steady hand; and because it was what dad would do, with his short bladed grafting knife, flattened at the end to open the slit bark and insert the cutting.
This was the knife – razor like and lethal – that I knew I was never to touch.
All my life since, apple peeling has retained the sense of something tricky, possibly dangerous. To peel the skin whole, a feat, a craft, a mark of adulthood.
The childish pleasure of eating the peelings hasn’t left me either.
Some nostalgia here. This was on the back pages of so many of the comics I’d read as a boy. Was Charles Atlas real? These days, would the skinny youth stay at home crouched over his twitter feed and find other routes to revenge?
Back in 1971 my sister – 11 years old – bought me a book of poetry with a title that would now, I guess, be considered offensive.
It had been published first in 1964 and reprinted in 1969. It cost 4/-. A lot of pocket money in those days. I loved it and still have it on my shelves.
The collection of poems include modern and traditional African verse, some American poets and this – rich, vivid, alert, conscious of both past and present – from Derek Walcott, who has died today:
When we visited Snape late last year I came across this book – one long poem – by Julia Blackburn.
I am busy with death
And the fact of it
Because my husband died
Three months ago
Almost to the day,
The landscape of my altered world
Between before and after.
The verses are woven around some beautiful photographs of starlings in formations, flying. Murmurations.
The poet describes the connection between the movement of the birds and her grief:
The way they pull between a celebration of living
And an intimation of things unseen…..
Starlings make me able to believe
That everything will be alright
In its own way
And that is good to know
-If it is knowing –
Perhaps it is more to do with trust.
It’s intimate, poignant and very moving. You can read a little more about it here. You can buy it here.