Not an Odalisque

NaNoWriMo Day Eight: Literary Scrumping

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There is something particularly thrilling about scrumping. Augustine scrumped pears, and declared it to be very wrong, which is surely an indication that it must be very pleasurable. Rousseau, too, was a pear scrumper, but unlike Augustine he felt the need to come up with excuses for his actions: hunger and pride. I don’t buy it; scrumping is done for badness.

I was once an accidental scrumper. Visiting a friend towards the end of the summer, her mother suggested that we pick the apples in their orchard. We were provided with several wicker baskets and a wooden ladder, and happily spent the a couple of hours picking, throwing and catching apples. We separated the bruised fruit from the storable, and set about making an apple crumble. Just as I was about to add ginger and raisins, my friend suggested that we check her mother’s allotment for berries. We took one of the smaller baskets down the road and filled it with blackberries from the overgrown side of the patch. They were large and ripe, they reddened our fingers as we picked them and added to the marks on my skirt sustained by slithering up and down apple trees. They tasted wonderful, at their best on the walk back as we sneaked them from their baskets. My friend’s mother was in the kitchen when we returned. “Where did you get those?” she asked.
“From your allotment” my friend replied.
“I gave that up two years ago” she said.

No crumble ever tasted as sweet as one with the stolen berries. I cannot argue innocence. We made no attempt to discover the allotment owner and make recompense. We just giggled and licked our fingers. Even if we were innocent criminals, that was no defence for the pair involved in the most famous scrumping incident of all time. Adam and Eve didn’t get away with it, why should anyone else?

I haven’t gained any illicit fruit recently, but I may not want to go into detail on the provenance of some of my characters and plots. In many cases, I have valid artistic or revengeful reasons for it, but I think that at least part of my motivation is that of scrumping: just for badness. Even scrumping changes with the times, though. I will take my inspiration from Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’, not only because I’m sure it’s the most arousing lesbian poem never to mention sex. It tells of a girl who tastes enchanted fruit and pines away for want of more. When her sister tries to buy some from the goblins, they won’t sell, but they press it upon her, tempting her to taste it. She returns dripping fruit juices and her sister is able to slake her desire by licking them off. From this comes my new philosophy of literary scrumping: if they throw it at you, it’s yours.


Written by Not an Odalisque

November 8, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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