I guess you could say I was a strange mix as a child. Bookish and something of a nerd (no shame!) when left to my own devices, but quite the tomboy when the situation demanded. A single child, the closest I had to siblings were three boy cousins close enough in age. There was Michael, two years below me in age, then his younger brother, Matthew, and the youngest of our formidable foursome being Jonathan (more affectionately known as Johnny). And oh the games we played from two square to table tennis to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Sadly, being a girl, I was only ever allowed to be April, their onesie wearing human sidekick. And how I desperately longed to be the red-banded overgrown turtle, Raphael!)
But our family comes from cricketing stock you see. My grandfather was the wicketkeeper for North Eastern Transvaal many, many moons ago and his eldest son carried on in the tradition, going so far as to become the wicketkeeper for South Africa for a good few years. Some of you may know him as David Richardson. He’s just Dave to us. Needless to say, his sons and my three cousins were naturally of the sporting variety although while Johnny and Michael loved their cricket, Matthew was and remains almost unbeatable on the tennis court!
The only man I fear more on the tennis court is my grandfather. My Papa is like a brick wall on the court. Return. Return. Return. And so it goes… Endlessly… Until that moment, when you, so utterly infuriated, so very impatient, smash the ball straight into the net. This is usually followed by a John McEnroe temper tantrum, while my Papa, cool as a cucumber, speaks those perpetual words, “Just watch the ball.” I lost many a tennis racket in my youth that way. Now I’m wiser. Now I take his methods to heart as if applying myself to the Art of War. It has won me many a chess game and poker match. And when it comes to table tennis, let’s just say those who’ve underestimated me on that score have since learnt the folly of their ways. Golf though, that you can keep. It’s all yours. Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden, I like to call it. Perhaps I am simply bitter because, for all my Papa’s patience and utterances of “Just watch the ball,” the golf ball, much like the shuttlecock, evades me completely. All I sent flying into the air were tufts of grass the day he tried to teach me. But then, badminton, well what sort of a Bah Humbug could ever hate badminton?!
All the same, love those cousins of mine like brothers I have…
But I would have to say that my fondest memories of us as youngsters are both gastronomically inspired. Easter egg hunts at their home were quite the occasion with their expansive garden. The little know-it-all that I was, I soon figured out that the best way to find as many chocolate eggs as possible was to look to the limbs of trees at adult height. You see, while I still believed vehemently in faeries, the Easter Bunny seemed a bit of a stretch for me. (As for Father Christmas, well he’d gone out the window as soon as I’d noticed his gold Rolex looked ever so much like my Uncle Gary’s.) Most of all though, it was that time of year, when without fail, their mulberry trees bore their delicious sour-sweet fruits.
I have always had a penchant for all things sour. As a youngster, I’d be eating the pink berries off of a playmate’s bordering hedge, so deliciously sour they were. To this day, I know not their name. Neighbours down the road in my youth had grapevines and I would eat those tiny, green grapes until my stomach ached and it was growing dark and time for home. My appetite spoiled. And boy, did I ever love those mulberries in my uncle’s garden. Sports and games and all things competitive forgotten for the day, off we’d venture, soda pops in hand (for my uncle was of the posh sort with one of those soda machines… How very fancy I thought them!). There was no need of lip smackers for the mulberry juice stained our mouths deep purple, and left our hands soaked in their juices, not to mention the stains on our clothes, much to the disapproval of our parents later. But truly, to this day, I think there are few things as moreish as a sun-ripened berry, bursting with goodness, picked ripe from the tree!
Berry Picking by Sylvia Angeli
Featured image: Edmighell’s Picking Blue Berries (Collagraph impression on Cook Inlet Glacier Clay, multiglazed, Cone 6 oxidation.)