Apple Day 2018 26th March 2019. Corr...what a day. I had so much fun with the kids that what really surprised me is when I got a proper wage at the end. You know, these people arenít rich. We decided to cancel it the week before for lack of notice. So after they advertised it there was a horde who came down, and it gave Emma ample time to organise some freshly-baked food too. Well, the special thanks goes out to Richard Simpson at Cummin Up who laid on the transport and 10 crates of apples that were being thrown away from Lewisham Shopping Centre. Of course he has a thriving branch there, and like so many of us who are wheeling and dealing his extended family includes anyone with an ability to spot a deal. I was supposed to give him a load of juice but for what I could salvage from this mush was drunk by all the kids. Thatís a lesson well learnt; old apples fallen off the back of a lorry (literally) are Ďhardí to extract from. Richard, of course, sponsors my beekeeping in Spain. I think patience is key here.
As soon as we arrived we were needed. Someone had broken down and was stuck in the mud so Richard had to pull him out. He is a devout Christian who helps anybody out blessing everyone who needs it. I guess that is why we are attracted to each other, we are both God people and deeply spiritual. His family were all brought up in a church and even though I donít consider myself a Christian I still follow the principles of brotherly and sisterly love. He doesnít need to support me, he has enough on his plate already. But our relationship gets stronger through community and honesty.
When I arrived to the base of the Dulwich home-schoolers I knew what to expect: kids of different ages being overseen by their parents. Some of the older ones were huddled around androids, as per usual. But slowly I had to identify the leaders who were advertently girls, simply because they pay more attention and like to organise things. More parents came later but I had more than enough on my plate to get on with. Things turned out so well that I canít imagine not coming back next year. The best time is around September/October when there is a greater selection of apples and pears. Not only that, I donít encourage buying apples to press but to use just the wasted windfall from the back of your garden or your friendís. Everybody appreciates a free clean-up.
A good juice is made from a selection of juicy apples, or from select varieties. My preference though goes to pears (perry as opposed to cider). It is such an unsung hero and neglected fruit that one is bound to find them on railway lines, old orchards, allotments and general waste land. And if you have a surplus of juice, cider is one of the easiest drinks to make. The yeast required for fermentation is naturally found on the skin of the apple and is abundant. A good cider is made up of one third eating apples (sweetness), one third cooking apples (acidity) and one third wild or crab apples (bitterness). After three months you will get a good cider if you have followed the fermentation process correctly through. You can of course find a good cider apple and for this it is worth travelling to abandoned orchards and farms on a day out in the country. There are about 200 common varieties probably; maybe the most famous being a Kingston Black which provides Thorntons cider.
So after we done all the technical stuff it was time to have some real fun. Itís amazing how blatantly obvious are the different degrees of skill between the children. Some use their hands, others their head. Acting like an uncle to these kids I let them get away with things that go against the rules. So in this case I minimised the rules when it was time to stretch our legs. The laughter I had seeing the smallest sail away up the field with an apple in his mouth whilst others splashed their heads in the water during apple bobbing was everything I desired of this event. As a prize I had one small bottle of olive oil to give away, having been a bad year when the last time I did this I had a number of bottles which all sold out. I asked the children to put an apple on their head, and the one who could reach the furthest would win the prize. When one of the boys used a half flat apple and strolled over the line I declared him the winner. He was accused by a girl of cheating but I had to quietly put my arm around her and assert that there were no rules and that we were all children. Having explained that adults make rules and sometimes they get it all wrong she cried. What fun. Special thanks again to Richard for collecting all the equipment.