Tony Lord: Does five fruit a day keep the doctor at bay?

Most of you will have heard the old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. More recently the dieticians have been telling us that ‘five a day keeps us feeling okay’.

This advice leaves me wondering what five fruits they are referring to. My illustration gives us a choice of 18.

I have cut it out of a children’s French dictionary which had hundreds of little illustrations which would have been very helpful to me as I struggled with this language in the third form at my grammar school in 1938 (Dix-neuf trente huit, I think).

Anyway back to the five fruits I must buy in Lewisham market.

I have a feeling this is going to be difficult.

Let’s start with that apple. Most of the time it will have started life in some orchard far away, and been picked before it was ripe
because it’s going to spend many hours trundling across Europe in a lorry or perhaps rather less time in the freezing cargo hold of a Boeing 747.

Now I’ve nothing against the cheerful stall-holders of SE13 but I’m afraid your apples (six in a bowl) are rather hard and tasteless.  With my old teeth I’m afraid to bite into them. Of course, none of this criticism applies to that happy time in the autumn when English apples are available.

Tony Lord’ – Illustration of a fruit chart

Oh, the joy of biting into a Cox’s Orange Pippin or enjoying a bowl of stewed Bramley apple with custard for afters.  So we’ll pass on the apple for a moment.

The grapes look nice but one has to spit out the skins and pips so they’re a no-no.

Grapefruit are out for me as well as they interfere with my anticoagulant therapy (blood thinners). Victoria plums cannot be beaten so I’ll introduce one of those into my lunch box.

Strawberries and raspberries would get mushy and squashed in my box and like the apples most peaches have to be kept for a week before they soften.

Cherries come and go in June-July along with gooseberries though the latter make lovely jam. I’m not sure if the next lot are blueberries of blackcurrants. Best to have them with my cornflakes at breakfast.

Of course nothing equals the flavour of a freshly picked apple. I should know as I picked thousands of them during the war when the headmaster of our school in Tunbridge Wells allowed all the older boys who owned bikes to be excused school and help bring in the harvest. My part in Dig for Victory.

In September 1940, when I was up a long ladder at the top of a plum tree with a shoulder bag, a German bomber flew low overhead with a Hawker Hurricane fighter in close pursuit and there was the rattle of machine guns.

I beat all records for descending from that tree and this experience, along with the half dozen plums I had eaten, meant that I had a very good bowel movement next day.

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