My mum was an Avon lady throughout my childhood. I remember being walked from doorstep to doorstep as a toddler delivering catalogues, receiving kisses from little old ladies who wore blue mascara, and as a teenager being sent as a delivery girl with paper bags filled with lipsticks and eyeshadow. I think one of the first words I could read might even have been Avon…
Anyway, one of the advantages of having an Avon lady for a mum was a box of perfume and aftershave samples, which my best friend and I got to play with in the den we’d made in the space behind my cabin bed on rainy days. On sunny days, she and I would walk around the big block (up to the promenade and back down Rossall Grange Lane in a circuit) and one summer holiday we had the genius idea of merging the two and making rose perfume.
We set out to collect rose petals, with strict instructions from my mum to only pick rose petals that were hanging on the pavement side of the fence. We walked and walked and walked but there were no overhangers. So once we got to a garden full of roses, A, my best friend, looked around to check no one was looking, reached over the fence, and grabbed a big fat rose in her fist. Job done.
We took the petals home, put them in an empty Nescafe coffee jar, poured several perfume samples in on top of them, filled the jar up with water, and left it to transform itself into beautiful rose-smelling scent.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this, is because it’s foraging season. In foraging season I become hyper-alert to fruit growing on trees, and a few days ago I passed a garden with a tree completely laden with greengages. There were a few hanging over on the pavement side, but the bulk were over the fence. I grabbed the ‘legit’ ones, but without the others I wasn’t satisfied. I needed to go back to get them.
The garden looked overgrown and like it belonged to three different flats. There was so much fruit on the tree that there’s no way the occupants knew what a gem they had there. That’s how I justified it. So last night, walking back from L’s house, I seized my moment, and a good couple of handfuls of greengages. Under the cover of darkness.
Perhaps not my proudest moment.
The rose perfume was not a success – the petals rotted in the water, which turned slowly brown on A’s back room mantlepiece. Her sister called it Eau de Pong or something similar, so we ended up throwing it away.
The greengages, on the other hand, went very well with some apples (which, I confess I pilfered from the grounds of a block of flats, technically I suppose trespassing to get them) to make yummy, if slightly criminal, jam.