"How do you like those apples?"
Scrumping is a dying art. Kids these days would rather hang out down the shopping arcade injecting their cracks with marijuana or something, than break into some farmer's orchard and leg it with bags of stolen apples. And that, dear reader, is why society is buggered. Petty crime just isn't what it used to be.
A cat-and-mouse game between land-owners waxing fat off our starvation, the local tit-headed copper and stupid teenagers on a dare has given way to six cans of Stella on a park bench, before bowking up outside a kebab shop. For shame.
Following centuries of tradition, then, we went up to the orchards at Hare Hatch of an evening to see what we could get. The scene of many a successful scrump, you could hide your bikes at the side of the road, shin over a fence, and liberate the good, ripening fruit for the good of the starving local peasantry (ie us). Or you could just throw them at each other until somebody got their nose broken.
As the sun set behind the sewage works, pockets and cheeks bulging, tissues over bloodied noses, we scrambled back over the fence to head to our respective homes, and the bosom of our grateful families. "Lawks-a-lordy - look what the young massa's brought home - we can eat this week, Tiny Tim!"
But like Adam and Eve, we were tempted by forbidden fruit, and the cold hand of fate would deal us the harshest blow in this Eden in southern England. For we fell straight into the arms of the Old Bill, who had stealthily snuck up on us on his Thames Valley Constabulary-issue push-bike like some angel of fate descending from the heavens.
The Law spoke unto us: "Evenin' lads."
"It's not what you think, officer," said Matty, cheeks bulging like a hamster. As if that was going to make any difference.
“Turn your pockets out, lads.”
So we did. Apples everywhere. It was exactly what the boy in blue suspected, and then some.
All except Ronnie, who was rather reluctant to empty his pockets in front of the lawman.
"I could just do you for theft and trespass," Plod said by way of encouragement.
Slowly, Ronnie emptied his pockets. Apples naturally, but also, to his shame, a large pack of Durex's finest rubber johnnies.
We were, frankly, stunned. Most of us hadn't even seen A Lady Naked, and here was Ronnie, at the age of fifteen, all ready and Johnnied-up for Doing The Sex. The only person in our school who had the courage to own up to possession of prophylactics was one chap who drunkenly admitted possession for his night manipulations on account of his raging eczema. We called him Captain Condom.
"It's still not what you think, officer."
“You’re a bit hopeful laddie”, replied the Bill, "I hope you've brought enough for everybody."
“I’m in the Scouts,” said Ronnie , “Be Prepared.”
After a tense stand-off, the ice was broken, and we were let off with a stern warning. Next time, he'd get his notebook out. And he might even tell our parents.
The second he was gone, we were back over the fence. For now, we had work to do and it was carried out with a purpose and with only minor damage to Ronnie's trouser parts.
God knows what the bourgeois land-owning farmer thought the next morning. There, hanging from his trees hung long, rubber tubes, each containing a wind-fallen apple, diligently tied back onto the branch by hard-working local teenagers, swinging in the breeze like so many scrotal sacs. All fully lubricanted and impervious to attack by the forces of spermatazoon. It was beautiful.
It would have been a shame to see them go to waste.