I just took delivery of a punnet of massive strawberries. Huge. Like baby’s fists they are. Exactly equidistant in girth between a ping pong and tennis ball. Exactly. And biting into one set off a pavlovian reaction about which I had to write.
You see I have an a vivid childhood memory from around 1984 when I was seven. We had just moved from Greenwich (Woolwich really but shhhhh) to Portrush in Co. Antrim. And as such had a massive garden all of a sudden. This, for me was awfully exciting because up until now, outside space consisted of Eaglesfield ‘Recreation’ Ground where you could roll in dog shit and have your head kicked in by a big boy and get struck with a stick by a park keeper in a paddling pool with your winkie out and your pants down. All of a morning. And in Portrush we had a big strawberry patch.
And one halcyon Summer evening my family and I went to pick strawberries for a communal strawberry feast. And I found the biggest one! There! Peeping out from its leafy shade. The strawberry to end all strawberries. Ripe, and huge and perfect. With trembling hands I plucked it and held it aloft like the Holy Grail, for twas what it was, and the seas parted and the sky fell and the Earth stopped on its axis for me and my mighty strawberry, this crown jewel of strawberries. My new pride. My new joy.
And Mum said just pop it in the basket.
What now? pop it in the basket. What madness was this? My own Mother. The EVIL. The Cruelty. Why? It’s MY strawberry. It’s so beautiful. I love this strawberry more than I love football. Or Pepsi and Shirley. ANYTHING. And you want me to ‘pop it in the basket’. You want me to SHARE my strawberry, to take a chance- a one in five chance that I might not get to eat MY strawberry. This was witchcraft. Some dark power of which I knew not. And I cried and I cried and I screamed and I shouted and I rolled on the floor until they all saw sense. And I ate that strawberry.
If I’m honest it was probably a bit woody, lacking in sweetness and flavour. But that’s not the point. I don’t share food is the point. And even at seven I knew. Spin on the Grifter? Sure have a go. You want to touch my finished Panini football sticker album? Hmmm OK. But be careful. What’s that? Can you borrow my aerobie? Knock yourself out.
MY TANGY TOMS?! Pal, I’ll break your face right now. And if you so much as look at my Caramac I swear to God you’re getting a massive dead leg. Or a noogie.
And not a huge amount has changed. You can have my West Wing box-set, you can borrow my car, as much cash as I can afford. But if you think that you are getting one of MY roast potatoes, then swivel. Step back, walk away and just don’t even try. Because a noogie at your age is embarrassing for you and for me. But that’s what’ll happen. You see if it doesn’t.