Nothing marks a return home to Queensland more than the sight of a pineapple.
They’re everywhere here on the Gold Coast: propped up proud at the local markets like beacons marking out a path to the summer that will lead me away from 12 years of grey skies, lingering showers and heavy handbags laden with cardigans, spare tights and a tiny brolly.
My most memorable British pineapple was had at Brighton Pavilion, and it wasn’t actually a pineapple at all but a confection of gilt and wood and lacquer set amidst flying dragons and suspended banana leaves and dazzling crystal chandeliers. Really.
The pineapple holds a special place in my family’s heart. We stole them as kids. Begged our Uncle to drive his tractor – us bouncing on the slasher platform attached to the back – past the dam, up and over two hills and along the state forest line to the fence that marked out his property from the bloke’s next door. My uncle was in dairy; his neighbour – pineapples.
We never took anything from the first crop. That was for the market. His living. But we sometimes picked a few from the second. We’d pause for a second to get up our courage, quietly surveying the endless rows of spiky green-grey pineapples stretching down the rocky hillside. Then, certain we were alone, we’d bend gingerly between the barbed wire, hack at the closest pines and run breathless back to the tractor cradling them like fat, prickly babies.
The second harvest is supposedly less valuable. Tasteless. But the juice dripped down our chins and the cores were gnawed ’til they disappeared. They were golden; and when I see a pineapple today the hazy memories of those pineapple pinching days always hover somewhere close by.