I laughed when I first heard the stories; a island full of pigs that liked to swim in the sea? It was a mad man’s fantasy!
To prove it, my husband took me out there. We sat in the boat, waiting and I giggled every now and then, of course we weren’t going to see pigs swimming in the sea, there was more chance of seeing them flying!
Then from the tree covered shore they come, down onto the yellow sand and into the blue sea, pigs of every colour and size, swimming towards us!
In the storage cage next to mine in the basement of the apartment block sat an old piano. It was dark brown, the lid up showing white and black keys and the stool pulled out as if someone was about to sit down to play.
I asked my neighbour about it and she told me, with sadness in her voice and face, that the piano was her mother’s and she couldn’t part with the instrument.
‘Sometimes,’ she added, ‘I can hear it.’
That night for the time as I fell asleep, I heard the tinkling of piano notes coming from the basement.
What was behind the shuttered door of the abandon building?
It looked once to have been a church or other place of importance. It was wedged in-between apartments. The windows were strangely placed down each side and in the middle was a large circle window under an arch.
It couldn’t be a house, it was too weird but maybe it had been converted at some point?
I wanted inside. I wanted to see what lay behind the bricks and glass. I wanted to know what secrets were hidden there.
The sun was dipping low and reflecting on the lake’s still surface as if there was a second sun setting on another world under the water.
I didn’t look back as I walked on the planks towards the small blue painted wooden boat that lay in the tall rush reeds. I was calm in mind; empty headed my grandmother would describe it as.
Untying the boat, I pushed it out so the bottom wouldn’t get stuck then got in. I rowed out, noticing the thin mist parting around me and the ripples the oars created. It was all ready freezing out here and a thin frost was settling were it could. I could imagine the morning sun making the frost glitter like candlelight on crystal.
Stopping, I lay down in the boat’s belly and listened to the lapping of the small waves. I shut my eyes and let the cold come to me. Tomorrow, they would find me with frost on my eyelashes and lips. My yellow and gold lace trim ball gown frozen to my body and his last letter against my heart.
The squirrels were out in full force. They roamed the fallen colourful leaves and chased each other up trees. Sometimes one would stop to eat a nut or seed, sitting on hind legs and holding food in tiny front paws. Others choice to bury their prize in the hope it would help to see them through the winter.
My favourite apples were those picked straight from the tree covered with water drops from a light autumn shower or droplets from a misty morning.
It seemed like I spent all my autumn days outside harvesting, sorting out the animals and making sure everything was ready for winter. I had lots of help, I was the only girl out of eight children. The joke was my mother had kept trying till she had a girl but I had turned out more boyish then some of my brothers!
I was fourth generation of farmer and it ran strong within me. I had favourite jobs and ones I hated but I still did them all. My best was apple picking. I loved getting the reds and greens off the trees, stacking them in baskets before putting them in the trucks to go to the shops.
There was some comforting about the weight in hand, the smell of the crisp apples under my nose and when I tasted the sweet tang of the fruit nothing could bet it.
One of my brothers joked that it was apple juice that ran in my veins instead of blood. I believed that could be true. Another brother said I had been born from an apple seed mother had swallowed on the advice of grandma. A third claimed they had found me under an apple tree on harvest moon night!
However, I had come into the world my name; Autumn Apple Atkins was fitting and perfect to my ears. Some sniggered at it, others had used it to bully me but to me it was who I was and where I had come from.
My father had promised me the orchard and I could think of no greater thing to inherit then the trees that bear the fruit I love.
I was rushed off my feet in November and early December, it was Christmas present time and I loved it.
Hampers were in my speciality, my business and I didn’t just do food ones, there were all kinds. From baby and child items, to pets to spa days to brides to be, birthdays but there was something magical about my Christmas ones.
Maybe, I wondered packing one of the baskets up, it was the smell of the dry cinnamon sticks, the tang of bottled mulled wine, the scent of the holly and green door wreath and heavenly ginger snap biscuits. Perhaps, it was in the feel of the pair of cosy socks, the fluffy snowman teddy or the wooden angel decoration.
All this and more tucked in the white paper shreds within the wicker box then sealed with red bowed ribbon with two large brass bells tinkling on the ends.
I just could never lay a finger on why but that’s how my Christmas hampers were.
The sight was elegant and exciting, bring forth the urge to untie the ribbon and see what was inside! It was the perfect gift for anybody. Straight from my heart to your’s as my slogan went.