Yesterday, on one of our free-food forages we discovered this is possibly not the case — or perhaps just that the woman standing snarling at us, hands on hips, was a miserable old sod.
THE apricot tree
The year before last we took some of the apricots (hanging outside the garden, bien sur) noting that most of the tree's offerings were scattered on the floor.
Last year the owners had pruned it to a quivering heap of sticks, but this year it had jumped back to life, loaded with fruit.
Too tempting: and again, no sign of any fruit collecting going on, so . . . why not?
We walked the dogs up the ally, observing with admiration their almost industrial garden; crammed with rows and rows of perfect looking tomatoes, beans, lettuce etc that Mr McGregor would have been proud of.
The woman was watching me from her back door-step; I could feel her anger radiating over the honeysuckle — just you dare, go on . . .
So we did.
I walked up the bank, shook open my Foyles Bookshop plastic bag, and before you could say Tarte aux abricots, she had machine-gunned a great many words in our direction.
"Ne vous genez pas, surtout," and, c'est propriété privée! C'est pas vrai, c'est pas possible, laissez nous en paix," etc.
"Oh, don't inconvenience yourself, will you? (quite sarcastic for French person) This is private property, it's not true! It's not possible, leave us in peace!"
I then pointed out that her house-coat was quite appalling, and that she had the face of a toad's arse.
Actually, I pointed out that they never seem to use the fruit, and what was the harm in taking a few before they fell to the ground, thus preventing a potential wasp problem, and possibly people slipping — leading to litigation in the high courts.
She was not deterred in her mission to show how much power they had by owning fruit that could be ignored.
"But, Madame", I protested, "look, the ones inside your fence have fallen and have become mushy, have they not."
"I was about to 'remass' them," she retorted; "now be off you rabid tykes." (or similar).
Ezra dragged me away at this point as I was enjoying myself so much that I might have gone into the garden and ripped her house-coat up into many tiny NYLON BLOODY PIECES! and sod the consequences.
In order to calm down and regain the well-beingness of free fruit-gathering, we went to raid a lovely yellow plum tree further down the road that is certainly not in/hanging over/under or above anyone's land.
This morning I cast a nonchalant eye over her tree and garden — the apricots were still there in a now-mushier pile and the branches bending under the weight of pale orange spheres (sob).
Mark, being quite a bad boy sometimes, is keening to strip the tree bare after dark, and leave a small notice: merci, Madame, vous êtes bien aimable.
I must stop him as we do not want to feature on some reality TV program with air rifle wounds. Instead we will make plum jam; I might even take her a jar and inform her that I remember her apricots being distinctly over-fibrous from the jam batch we made two years ago. Ha.