I'm not really impressed with Valencia oranges. Navels are my favourite. I love gazing at navels. However this is a story about a Valencia orange moment.
I was on a cross country mission from Albany to Byron Bay in a 1976 CF Bedford, with some of Grandma's money and an agenda to sort out a rather pressing family mystery. (We did sort it out too, thanks to a Welsh hippy in Mullumbimby, but that's another story.)
I drove from the South Australian/ Victorian border to Echuca in one character building, moonlit night, where jack rabbits launched themselves bravely into my roo bar and rice fields glowed like a scrabble board with gridded irrigation drains. I drove all night in a kind of wasted, exhaltant, post Nullabour daze to meet up with Our Sunshine and party with the heathens at ConFest.
It was the day of the Tsunami but we missed that.
For the next week we were out of mobile range, bereft of newspapers, television, alcohol or clothes. Well, not bereft of clothes, it was a matter of choice. My daughter observed that at this particular festival, "only folk between eight and eighteen actually wear anything."
It was hot and there were rules about cameras.
I cuddled my Our Sunshine at the gates. She showed us the beautiful camp she'd set up for us all and then we indulged ourselves in a whole week of not driving, of massages and yoga and life drawing and swimming in the river and dancing and chai tents and mud baths and body painting and heavenly music and perving on naked men we'd seen on TV before somewhere and weaving dream catchers.
On the sixth day the January heat settled into the dried out floodplain at 41 degrees. The chalkboard workshop itinerary announced that on this very day there would be a class called "FRUIT APPRECIATION."
Our Sunshine and I looked at each other. "Fruit," we said in unison. Iced watermelon. Grapes. Cherries. Apricots.
We signed up, or rather we thought we'd drift along, which is how workshop registration worked in these parts. The kids, by now having formed a tribe of opportunistic little ConFest ferals, (think 'Lord of the Flies' with the parents all being the 'littluns') decided it might be worthwhile to turn up as well.
We all sat in a circle, in the sun, at Midday, waiting for this class to start and greedily dreaming up our own orchestral platters of fruit. Kind of like the ones in those opulent paintings, or scenes from the era of Julius Cesear or Cleopatra.
He was late. One hour late. He finally walked into the centre of the circle, a bandy legged hippy with a feather in his hat, carrying a plastic shopping bag full of Valencia oranges.
I know the difference between Valencias and Navels on sight at fifty metres - even through a Woolies bag. I groaned to Our Sunshine, "I fucking HATE Valencias."
We were so hot. We were not allowed to sit in the shade. We all had to tell fruit stories. One man spent half an hour elaborating on his adventure as a fruitarian. It was a set up. The fruit guy was eyeing off the topless guitar siren and trying to concentrate on his lines. The orphan brood that had attached themselves to me in the morning were dissolving into heatstroke cases and all trying to sit on my lap.
Finally we had a Valencia placed in front of us with great care and reverence and for ten minutes we were allowed to look at this orange. Then we were allowed to pick it up but NOT SNIFF IT.
You can see where this is going. This is the bit where the oppressed becomes the oppressor, where Amin and Mugabe go psychotic, after all that power for the people stuff. This is the bit where the hippy with a feather in his hat starts calling himself Milgram and quotes from 'The Perils of Obedience'.
That's what I was thinking anyway and I muttered as much to Our Sunshine.
But when we actually got to taste that Valencia!! Oh My! When we bit a hole into her leathery hide and sucked her dry, ate her whole, ate her from inside out! Oh My! Oh!
Now that is FRUIT APPRECIATION.
I got it. I got it the next day, when we cranked up the Bedford with jumper leads and drove out of the ConFest flood forest and halfway along the winding track back to civilisation, we saw an ode to the Valencia - an orange standing atop the rotting plinth of a stump - a single citrus fist in the air to the joys of a Valencia on a Mad Dog Day.