As a young child it was a family tradition of ours to pack our bags every summer and head off to the Lake District with Granny. The summer would then be spent climbing mountains, swimming in rivers and idling the nights away around the scrabble board with any other friendly mountaineers who happened to be staying at the same hostel. It wasn’t a holiday of luxury or excess, however it was the happiest of times.
As the years went by and father had to stay home for business reasons and my older brother got too old for such exertions, my mother, Granny and I continued our treks up into the mountains. Being the only child on such events had absolutely no effect on me as my imagination was enough of a playmate for me.
One particular summer, just as we had finished our morning’s climb, as the three generations of our family sat down to lunch atop a beautiful mountain with a splendid panorama, I opened my lunch box to find a most beautiful sight. An orange. Now this was no ordinary orange, dull and misshapen. Instead it was the most perfect fruit my young eyes had ever beheld. Perfectly rounded without a single blemish or blotch. The colour was vibrant and full of life and the orange was firm, big and solid.
For some reason that most probably can never be logically explained, this fruit captured my imagination and took hold of me. I attempted to convey the wonders of this orange to my sceptical mother and grandmother only to be greeted with noncommittal responses intended to keep me happy. They clearly could not see the brilliance of what I was holding and so I promptly dismissed their opinions as ridiculous and named my orange on the spot. Of course under no circumstances could I eat anything so perfect and mar the beauty of what I had found, and so I christened him, William, after the English king, William of Orange. I personally felt that the name was a stroke of genius and it only served to consolidate my belief that William was destined to be my next playmate.
In the days that followed William and I became inseparable. We climbed mountains together, swam together, and even slept in the same bed. If boredom ever loomed I could take William and play a multitude of games. I distinctly remember throwing him down grassy mountains and running to catch him. Or even dropping him in rivers and running around the bridge to pluck him out of the water on the other side or tossing him as high as I could and attempting to catch him again. I completely understand that the image of a small child having an orange as a best friend is somewhat strange and even slightly disturbing, however, in my mind William was brilliant. Despite the strange looks I received from other walkers when they saw me trotting around the youth hostel in the constant company of an orange or the protestations of my elders, I refused to consume him.
As the holiday drew to a close I was faced with a dilemma, what to do with William? I was leaving the safe seclusion of the country side and returning to the harsh urban environment and was unsure whether William, or our relationship, would survive. Faced with this conundrum and my young mind fretting over what I felt to be a very important issue, I started the assent of my last mountain’s climb. As I sat at the summit eating my lunch once more, my mother and grandmother were nice enough to seriously discuss with me the fate of William. After much serious deliberation and worrying, I decided that because William was born in the Lake District it would therefore be cruel to take him away. Eating him was out of the question as that seemed to represent a cannibalistic nature at this point in the proceedings. Nor did I want to leave him anywhere for some other weary walker, or hungry sheep to find and devour, and so I came to my decision. I stood up cradling William in my arms and walked to the very peak of the mountain top. Below me lay the beautiful District with its various woods, lakes and valleys. As I teetered on the edge, I said my goodbyes, bestowed one last kiss on my summer friend and flung William as far out into the valley as my young arms could muster. As he rolled from my fingertips I felt a sense of happiness descend upon my childish heart as I came to the realisation that William would continue to roll on through the Lake District after I was gone with the happy memory of me, as I was utterly convinced that this small orange would never forget me.