Friday, March 5, 2010

I am a bandycoot! Neighbourhood figs:

Patience listened to my muffled giggles down the phone line; "You've been bandy-whating?"
"Bandy-cooting!" I reply, stuffing my bag of ill gotten gains into the boot of the car. "I'll be there in 5 minutes to get you." I disconnected, jammed the keys in the ignition and sped away from the scene of the crime!
Just to put it all into perspective, I was running late to collect him (Patience with a capital 'P') from some late-night work because I had decided that I was going to do something that had been niggling at me for weeks. I was going bandycooting!
Let me explain- bandycooting isn't quite what it sounds like, especially if you think it sounds like I am packing heat and hunting bandycoots. Oh no.
Bandycooting is acutally the rather poetic name given to people who (in the world wars) stole fruit and veggies from other people's backyards and crop patches during the night.
Snowdroppers stole other peoples underwear and clothes from the washing-line.
Bandycooters stole the food they were growing to try and make rations go further.
In fact, I am reliably informed by my mother (who takes tours for the Sydney Historic Houses Trust) that to be suspected of 'badycooting' was the worst kind of shadow you could cast on a persons good name in these times- after all, if other people had put in the hard work to grow their own supplies, why hadn't you?

Just to be clear, I wasn't technically a total bandycoot. I wasn't climbing fences onto private land and raiding the hard work of the unsuspecting backyard gardener. We have out own little hard-won plot of veg and I know how much it would hurt if someone pillaged our tiny crop.
I was being a little more thoughtful in my 'cooting'- raiding an unloved local tree for suburban figs. This tree sits by the side of the main road, on public land outside an office block and is just groaning with fruit.
In fact it is begging for people like me to stop by and unload it of it's juicy burden- after all, if we don't it just ends up as half-eaten bat-bitten rot on the roadside.
But don't worry, there's plenty of fruit higher up for the batties to continue feasting on, it's a tall tree.
What is discovered when I got to the tree under cover of darkness was twofold.
1.) I am not a very good bandycooter- having neglected to change out of my sparkly metallic silver top and hence standing out like a reflective beacon in the night (so much for being inconspicuous).
2.) I wasn't being quite as resourceful or as innovative as I thought, someone had beaten me to the punch and much of the ripe fruit from lower branches was gone... this wasn't the work of bats.

Still, I was there and I wasn't leaving without my prize! So I jumped and jiggled, reached and stretched to net what was ripe and within my grasp. I managed to gather a neat little pile of about 10 beautiful, sticky-ripe figs... and they were subsequently delicious!
Sure it mightn't have been the biggest haul, but it was certainly one of the more satisfying. I'm even keeping one little figgy to see if I can strike a tree of my own. You never know, might be my tree that's causing a little roadside joy in the future.
In the meantime I'm keeping an eye on that tree for the next round of fruit. Just as soon as the green ones come good I'm hoping I'll get in first for the harvest, and considering I saw a little old woman out there in broad daylight just a few days ago, I won't be so shy about it either!

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