When we first moved here and the cottage was but a bramble covered ruin open to the sky, on the far side, partly hidden by elder bushes and barricaded by stock fencing on worm eaten wooden posts, there we found an old fig tree.
"How wonderful!" we thought, imagining some future where our guests, sheltering under its branches from the afternoon sun, would reach up casually to pluck a ripe fruit, to be eaten sweet and juicy with fresh sheep's yoghurt.
Our second summer, one evening we sat on the veranda by the house and, intrigued, watched a flock of starlings swoop round the derelict cottage below us. Having seen the figs begin to ripen and thinking that one or two might just be ready, I investigated the next morning to find the starlings had been busy. Not a single fig remained. Not even the tiny unripe ones. We would have to wait another year before we would be tasting our own soft, sweet figs - starlings permitting.
Four years on, this great thug of a plant alongside the now restored cottage terrace is not a thing of unalloyed joy. Too close to where our friends sit on late summer evenings, the rotting figs high in the branches beyond human reach are a magnet for marauding hornets and wasps - an unwelcome presence for those guests of a nervous disposition. So each spring now, before the rising sap burns and stings I take pruning saw, secateurs and loppers and bring back to ground level all but a handful of branches furthest from the terrace.
The fig weed thrives on my harsh ministrations. In a few months a thicket of new growth will be eight, ten feet into the air - the most enticing of figs yet again high above, there for the taking by starling and hornet.
Nevertheless, I know come late summer this brute will delight me. I will wander down to the cottage in the early morning, through the still wet long grass and pick from the lower branches the sweetest of breakfasts and be glad that the tree is there.
2 years ago