DURING January we enjoyed our friends’ visits from Melbourne. Especially after the year we had, it was high time to appreciate good company. We rejoiced with each opportunity to rekindle and deepen our friendships. Summer was at its height and the sea breeze was gentle on our skins. After months of lockdowns, particularly for Melbournians, finally our spirits were free to explore and take on new adventures.
Pip told me she was visiting Inverloch for a weekend in early January. She had a catch up dinner with her school friends as well as meetings with her clients. She could easily have stayed with one of her friends but texted me asking whether it was ok for her to stay with us on Saturday night. I was delighted. It had been a long time since we caught up properly. Nowadays there is less opportunity for me to visit Melbourne simply because I’m reluctant to be in the big smoke. I rang her back straight away to say ‘Yes’ and we planned to spend time together on Sunday morning.
That’s exactly what we did. Pip, Rob and I continued to paddle and glide through the clear water. At one stage Pip jumped into the water for a swim while Rob towed her board. We were paddling leisurely around waiting for Pip to catch up. Then suddenly Rob felt the weight behind. Instead of climbing back again cheeky Pip was hanging on to her board having a free ride. We laughed our belly laughs. I still clearly remember the vivid image of this special day – tall and elegant Pip on her board paddling gracefully, and Rob and I paddling comfortably sitting low in the kayaks. It was certainly a superb day.
Not long after Pip’s visit, another good friend Pete decided to come down for a few days. I often tell him that he is one of the A-list friends and one night’s stay is not long enough. We were pleased to have him for three days on this occasion. Pete showered us generously with his home-grown vegetables. He is definitely a dream guest who is very relaxed at our place and doesn’t need to be entertained constantly. He usually brings his newspaper puzzles to occupy his time while he is with us, and is content to be left alone. He enjoys good food, wine and all sort of communication – from a good yarn to a sophisticated conversation and cultured discussion. He fits in with whatever we are doing. On this occasion we took him out to the annual cherry plum harvesting.
It’s our summer tradition to make wine from local cherry plums. In the early days when we moved to Inverloch we often explored the local areas on our bikes. It was on one of those bike rides on the Southern Great Rail Trail that we noticed lots of cherry plum trees along the trail. There were dark and light red coloured ones and yellow coloured ones. We picked a few and tasted them without much expectation. They were not only eatable but quite tasty. Tangy and juicy plum flavour exploded in our mouths as we munched on them. Most of the trees were covered by fruit and branches were bent down, heavy with plums. Since they were abundant we later picked a few bucketfuls and made jams and wine. They were quite reasonable for home consumption.
This year I noticed fruits were ripening a few weeks early maybe due to the heat and heavy rainfall in spring. I kept my eye on the ripening progress of plums along the rail trail while Rob spotted a few good trees on his bike rides around Kongwak. We loaded the car with a ladder, a few big tubs and drove to the area where Rob had spotted good trees. Oh it was an exciting sight to behold. Many trees were abundant with dark red cherry plums.
We all got stuck into picking. Some trees needed a ladder to get access. While Rob and Pete were busy picking their own trees, I walked further down the road to find my own tree. Then I found it. It was a magnificent tree with branches laden heavy with cherry plums. I tasted it. The flavour was amazing - tangy and juicy, just the way we like it. I soon became used to the rhythm of harvesting, picking a few plums then dropping them into the tub beneath me. The sound of cherry plums hitting the bottom of the container, curious cows bellowing in the nearby paddock, gentle breeze and glorious afternoon sunlight occasionally in my eyes as I shifted my body for better positioning for picking, I was totally immersed in the simple act of foraging. We checked each other for progress and in the end Rob and Pete moved to my tree to continue harvesting. We spent a good hour or so collecting two big tubs of fruit and called it a day. After the hard labour of harvesting once we got home we rewarded ourselves with a cheese platter and a glass or two of wine.
Some plums were so ripe that they started to form mould over night. So the following day we started crushing fruits in preparation for wine making. This process is usually time consuming and tedious, but because we had an extra helper and also that the fruits were quite ripe, we completed the task smoothly. Once again as a team we felt a great sense of accomplishment. It was wonderful to share the experience with our good friend.
Pete used to live on a farm in Maffra as a part of a migrant family from England. His father and mother were hard-working dairy farmers, and Pete loved living on the farm. He has a great knowledge of plants and cultivates them for sale. He likes working with his hands. Afterwards he mentioned that cherry plum picking and crushing fruits were the highlight of his stay with us, and he was very happy to offer his help again next year.
As we grow older, time becomes more precious, hence it is so important to surround ourselves with great company who enrich our lives. Pip and Pete are definitely those people.
Time passed with a friend - it matters not what is done, but what is shared.