While traveling around the world in the mid-80’s I took a contracting job with a geotechnical engineering firm in the United Kingdom. A tall structure was planned at the Canary Wharf redevelopment of the London Docks and it was necessary to learn about the rate that water could enter the foundation caissons. When I joined the project, test shafts had been sunk and water pumps installed in them. I was the supervisor of the four woman crew performing the tests. It was unusual for a geotechnical engineering field project to be staffed with even one woman in the mid-80’s.
The job site at the Docks was a long walk from the nearest Underground subway station. On my way to work every day, I passed an elderly apple seller, a “barrow boy”, from whom I bought apples for myself and the crew. He was a genuine Cockney – born within the sound of Bow bells (the Church of Mary-le-Bow) – and spoke in a thick slurry of words with “haitches” dropped and rich in slang. I suppose I could call him Alfie, but I’ll call him Pom. “Pom” is an Australian slang word for a Brit and is also an abbreviation for the French word “pomme” or apple. Pom was about 70 years old and had sold apples off his cart since he was a child. He always had a lovely smile and cheerful greeting for me.
Over 20 years later, I still walk to work, as a part of my commute to the BART subway, and eventually my office in Oakland. Like my walk to the London Docklands, my 2 mile walk is also close to water, besides San Francisco’s old Docks, or Piers as they are called. Close to the end of my walk is the Ferry Building, a renovated San Francisco monument, and the terminus for the boats that scurry commuters around San Francisco Bay.
Every Tuesday there is a Farmer’s Market on the sidewalk outside the Ferry Building where I regularly buy my week’s supply of daily organic apples from a stall. One morning while buying apples from the fair young lady who serves on the stall, I was struck by her beautiful broad smile and friendly greetings, and instantly reminded of Pom. I suppose I could call her Jessica (which is her real name) but I like to think of her as “Pommela”, a pomme de fair. As you can see from their pictures, there are gracious, smiling similarities between Pom and Pommela! But I would rather kiss her apple-rosy cheek than his.
And truly I can now say: “An apple a day makes worthwhile my play by the Bay”….