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Last year our tree produced one plum. It was our first-born from this tree, a cause for muted celebration. During the winter and spring, some surrounding trees were removed and suddenly, the plum tree stood in a sunny space. It responded, as we all do, when the light breaks through the gloom. It put out blossoms, but we had fallen for that before. It seemed to be a good year for bees. The blossoms struck. Suddenly, we realised that we had plums.  The branches drooped under the weight of fruit. We were not used to this. A fly appeared and some mould. We investigated remedies. Let us spray.  We covered the fish-pond. The labels carried dire warnings about the effects on aquatic organisms and on those who drink or inhale the insecticide/fungicide or neglect to wash their hands afterwards. There are no flies on us.  It worked,  although it entailed some nifty funambulism and aerial work on a wobbly step-ladder. Next year, if all goes well, I will invest in a knapsack-sprayer with a long spout or an agile youth who won’t shatter on impact with the ground.

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There is a catch. You have to repeat the process every two weeks, but not within fourteen days of consuming the fruit. I recall a fisherman suggesting that the (annual) blessing of the fishing fleet should only have to be done once. It’s not like scraping the hairy woar of the bottom of the boat and putting on anti-fouling– a messy job that has to be repeated every year. We took a chance. The plums began to ripen. We noticed little gashes appearing on some of them and wasps beginning to pay attention. We blamed the birds, unfairly, as it turned out. There is a belief that birds are deterred from fruit trees by the flashing of compact discs hanging on strings.The old method of placing a small child with a clapper, under the tree, probably works better, but this is no doubt, illegal nowadays. Anyway, they would eat all the fruit.

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Windows 95,–,– Esat-B.T.– H.P. Photosmart Printer Set-Up, now defunct. (It was only a little plastic lug, but it snapped off and the paper shot out at the back.) A few CDs palmed off by Sunday newspapers. In bright sunshine the discs laser around the garden like demented lecturers emphasising important points. In a stiff breeze they chime like a herd of Alpine goats. Now, goats would make short work of the plums —and the tree. I have reservations about philanthropists sending goats to Africa, on the grounds that goats can survive in desert conditions. They make the desert conditions. The notorious Lord Leitrim, not the vanishing one of later years, would not tolerate a goat on any of his tenant farms, on pain of eviction. “Kill that gourmandiser,” he would say. We would need The 1812 Overture , with full artillery, to scare off a herd of goats.  Lord Leitrim himself, met with some artillery from disgruntled tenants, on a cold winter morning.

The hanging discs put me in mind of Billie Holiday’s chilling song Strange Fruit. Nina Simone sings it: ‘the ugliest song I ever heard.’ It’s about lynching. A delegation of black leaders from the Deep South, went to see President Truman in 1949 to ask for a law outlawing lynching. He explained that ‘the country was not ready for such a law just yet.’  A century ago, a Dublin cinema advertised a lynching film as entertainment. I will take down the discs. The birds are not impressed by technology anyway.

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We are getting a lot of fruit. Even the fallen ones and the mouldy ones, make a pretty picture. The worms are quite pleased. The wasps are buzzing with excitement. It doesn’t do to think too much, early in the morning. Put aside the sadness of the world for a little while. Carpe diem, as poor Robin Williams repeatedly quoted.  We will enjoy the plums and maybe make some jam. Maybe even play a little music to some Skerry goats.


Like Virgil, we will have to talk about the pruning knife and next year.