Yesterday I watched a short film from a collection called Beginnings. Amongst the five first shorts by English film directors was one called Amelia and the Angel. It's the story of a girl who steals her angel wings from a school play and loses them. It was a beautifully shot little film made by a director who made some of the most poignant documentaries about English composers - Ken Russell.
The film was shot in 1958 and it was like watching myself in a London I was born and raised in. I too played an Angel (Gabriel) in a play and coveted feathery wings (though mine were so heavy I had to wear a harness to carry them). Here is Amelia with her recovered wings in the very park I played in all my childhood. But what was extraordinary about the film was seeing the city as it was then: the solid feel of the shops and stations, the almost empty streets, the old market woman dancing, the man and his performing dog. It was from another time. What struck me was that though it appeared no more beautiful or kind, it felt more intact, more itself, more magical.
What is it about apples that contain all these things? What is it that though we can dine like kings on pineapples and star fruit, mango and mangosteen, exotic fruits from all over the world, drink the sweet, fragrant juice of oranges and pomegranate at any time of the year, the sight of an apple press on a street can evoke such a sense of right place, of right time, of simplicity, starting over?
When I was a child in the city my world was black and white. I wore a stiff dark dress like Amelia. But when I went to a cottage in Kent, I played half-naked amongst the apple orchards. When I look back everything was in colour. It was my own Avalon, place of apple trees. And maybe that's why we long to remember the names of the apples on our trees and bring them shyly to these new stalls cropping up all over the island this week. We're looking to reclaim our own paradise. The one in our own hands.
Amelia and the Angel by Ken Russell, 1958; Red Windsor and Egmont Russetts form Jim Cooper's organic orchard, Clarkes Lane, Ilketshall St Andrew; holding apples from Bungay Abundance of Fruit stall, Apple Day 2010.