Me “What is this week’s phonic sound?”
3 3/4 Year Old “ “a” mummy, a for apple”
Me “Ah, I see.”
3 3/4 Year Old “No mummy, not ahhh, aaaa!!!”
Me “Quite right, and where do apples come from?”
3 3/4 Year Old “Tesco?”
Me “Well yes, I suppose they do.”
This was the conversation with my 4-year-old that prompted me to jump in the sexless family wagon and escape to the countryside, the legendary Pick Your Own P.Y.O section at Garson’s Garden Centre and Farm Shop in Esher to be precise, for an afternoon of vegetable picking with my little city slickers. My aim: to use Gordon Ramsay’s techniques on showing children where their food comes from but without needing to slaughter any sheep. I’m quite happy for them to think lamb comes from the chilled aisle if it avoids that. Besides, I grew up thinking all turkeys was cylindrical and called Bernard.
Thankfully the girls slept for the entire hour long car ride, Jeremy Vine was on fire discussing Extreme wrestling and the over use of Calpol, two topics close to my heart. My favourite quote was “That was Marvin Gaye and Sexual Healing, which I believe is a place in South East London.”
After spending the first twenty minutes in the toilet, the usual routine when we arrive anywhere, we got back in the car. The P.Y.O area is about 3 miles long so you drive around it and park in the different fields, like a vegetable safari park if you will, but without the risk of running over a gibbon.
First stop the Dahlias. Each section has a sign post with the name of the crop, a perfect opportunity to reinforce her phonics:
Me: “Wow, look what does this say look, look at the letters, you can pick a flower in a minute, come on do it with me, pointy finger… …a…h… (might be a blend, gloss over that) …. ahhhhhh ….lee, (say the letters after me or we will get back in the car and go straight home!)”
3 3/4 Year Old : “LEEEEE”
3 3/4 Year Old: “AAAAAAAAAAA”
Me: Good job, now let’s say all the letters together…D…”
“Never mind.” Will pick less pretentious sounding word next time.
I watch, and get snap happy on my phone, as she squelches off in her wellies as fast as she can down the rows of beautiful long stemmed flowers and stops to cram her nose into a big blooming pink flower. Tiny Tantrum comes over holding just the heads of two gorgeous white flowers and the remnants of a third in her mouth. I replace it with a rice cake, gather up our assortment of Dahlias, in various stages of wilt and head to the car.
Next stop Cauliflowers, my idea of food hell. Anything that smells of farts before you eat it and requires a cheese sauce to make it palatable should be left well alone and absolutely not combined with gravy!
Once Tiny Tantrum had figured out how to navigate the carpet of green leaves without face planting, they held hands and went off hunting for the perfect one to pick. It was then my job to remove it from the ground, without any instructions or any Wi-Fi I decided to just pull it out. Much like my experience of labor, the cauliflower shot out at alarming speed and so did a thick soil covered root which I removed with the sharp end of my front door key. It’s times like these I wish I hadn’t quit the Brownies after just two weeks because it clashed with the Bill.
The orchard was our next stop and we plodded up and down the neat rows of trees picking the best apples we could find.
With a bag filled to bursting with apples, and cutting off the circulation in my fingers, in one arm and a two-year-old clinging to me like a limpet in the other, we headed off to the car ready to search for some broccoli. At least that was the plan until the girls spotted an enormous muddy puddle. The two-year-old revived suddenly by this boggy mirage leapt out of my arms to join her sister. At first I tried to discourage them but they were having so much fun and this might be the nearest they ever get to Peppa Pig World that I just let them get on with having a blast. A couple who were parked near to us were quick to move their toddler away before he got any ideas about joining in. They were so muddy it brought our vegetable picking to an early end but they didn’t seem to care. I stripped them to their pants, threw their clothes and wellies in a big blue Ikea bag and drove to the check-out hut to pay. We were waved off on our way with bemused, slightly concerned, smiles by the check-out assistant, or “farmer”, as the mud covered half naked girls yelled at her from the back of our car and headed home.
The nights are already drawing in and if weather predictions are to be believed, we are heading for another cold winter so if you want to spend a few hours out in the glorious autumnal sunshine, picking your own fruit and veg and getting very muddy in the process then I can thoroughly recommend a trip to Garson’s Garden Centre and Farm Shop.