Thursday, 1 October 2009

Lizzie, Get Your Gun

As the days turn a bit colder, or "fresher" as the BBC weatherpeople like to say, so begins my first experience with radiators and Cox's Orange Pippin.  I'm afraid the former came with our house, but we purchased a small Mercedes full of these fine apples at Sandringham, the royal family's Christmas hangout and modest hunting lodge. 

Perhaps I should just come clean with all of my dear readers right away: I am a fruit fiend with no desire to seek therapy. While others may have ventured to Sandringham for the lovely gardens or opportunity to tour yet another royal residence, my main purpose in making the trek was to load my vehicle with as many pippins from the Royal Orchards as it could hold.  If my aunt once filled a Buick with shoes when moving house, surely a few hundred apples through the back hatch would be a Victoria sponge cakewalk.   It would not do to confess this mission to Chumley right away, as he would have perceived it as a terrorist plot and labeled me as crazier than I already am, if that's even possible.

Under the guise of me as a mild-mannered foreign tourist, we embarked.  First things first, though.  I was at the wheel when I saw the signs for royal pick your own.  (Do the royals pick their own?) After leaving a small dust cloud as I aggressively turned off the main road, I ambled down the sandy lane surrounded by woods, following the "PYO" signs like a fox, and feeling the adrenaline rush at the prospect of so much fruit in one place.  To my utter devastation, the orchards were closed until 1 p.m., and it was only 11:30.  I felt like Clark W. Griswald marooned at Wallyworld.  After throttling the steering wheel in disappointed rage, I suppose we had to take the house tour until the loading dock opened.  Based on his alarmed reaction, I think Chumley was starting to catch on.

Sandringham the house is not an overly large royal home -- a mere drop in the fountain compared to Buckingham Palace.  A large array of Asian armor and various pointy metal objects were artfully splayed across many walls, and Chumley noticed that he did not find the deadly objects to be particularly well secured.  Motivated once more by our fear of Interpol, we decided this theory was best left untested. 

We arrived in a room devoted to the display of many guns under glass, as well as artistic renderings of the Queen holding up a pheasant she'd recently shot.  Her expression was particularly happy, much happier than the group shots of her and the house's staff from 1979.  Granted, if I were wearing that much polyester, I'd find it hard to smile, too.

The culumnation of the house's sporty theme was in a separate museum, which devoted a wing to the exotic game trophies of kings past.  I couldn't help but look into the glass eyes of various mounted stuffed heads and wonder if they were on remote controls for use around Haloween.  Some of the lions were stuffed in particularly rageful poses, which I recognized from my experience earlier that day at the empty orchard car park.

We found an obliging garden shop with pre-bagged orchard apples, and I whimpered enough to get Chumley to buy me the economy bag plus one for good measure.  Of course, I was expected to keep up my end of the bargain, and in thanksgiving, promptly baked a blackberry and apple crumble, with a smattering of custard.  As I've decided to be truthful, I might as well confess that I'm not making crumble at all, but the more American apple crisp topping with oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs.  An American friend commented to me, and rightly so, that all the pub crumbles she's tried have been rather dry. I can't help but agree, as I got the urge to dig through one memorable specimen with a garden spade instead of my dessert spoon.  When concealed with the magical condiment of Ambrosia low-fat Devon custard, my ruse is complete.

So far, this conspiracy has remained undetected.

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