I get home from work to find a sandwich bag filled with plums on my doorstep.
No note, but assume they’re from the Irish lady next door who sometimes gives us courgettes from her allotment. Feeling neighbourly, I knock on the door and her granddaughter bounds on to the porch.
“Mooma there’s a lady here to see you!” she shouts.
Theresa appears behind her fumbling with keys.
“Hello!” I say brightly. “Was it you who left the plums? Just thought I’d pop by and say thanks.”
“Yes yes it was me,” she mumbles in her thick brogue. It’s hard to pick out every word so I ramble to fill the conversational gaps.
“Well, it’s just really nice of you, I might make a pie, or maybe jam, or -”
“Jam? Oh, do you want some more?” Theresa’s already walking back into the house.
I inwardly panic. I don’t know how to make jam. I’m going on holiday in two days. I didn’t really mean it, I just said it in a spurt of whimsy. I’m not even sure I like plums.
I eye the granddaughter. “So, what’s your name?”
“Temperance,” she replies, digging the toe of her shoe into the floor.
“I’m Lauren, from next door.”
She regards me coolly. “I know.”
Theresa returns with a bulging Sainsbury’s carrier bag. Not a 5p bag – we’re talking 10p; a Bag for Life.
“Do you have enough jars?” Theresa inquires.
Of course I don’t.
“… oh…I’ll just buy some.” I trail off.
“I’ll leave some on your doorstep,” She offers.
“Brilliant! Amazing. Thank you so much. I’ll bring you some jam!” I hear myself say.
I go home and ask Instagram how I’m going to get myself out of this.
Gemma replies – “make a tart?”
I reply: “I go on holiday in two days and I promised her jam.”
“Oh god,” she writes. “You’re now trapped in a jam cycle with your neighbour – take her the jam, she’ll give you more plums – FOREVER.”
Ask the work WhatsApp group for advice.
Liz shoots me down: “This isn’t a problem.”
Easy for her to say – she’s not going to return home to 11lbs of rotting fruit – but have realisation this is exactly the sort of thing Tim Dowling writes about in the Guardian weekend magazine.
Later, I’m wondering whether I can pass off shop-bought jam as my own when I get a brainwave.
I send my dad a text.
“You know how you’re coming to cat-sit? Well, do you know how to make jam?”