Friday, December 7, 2012


i had a dream the other night about a man with an orange.

He was a white man in his late twenties, tall and slim, with short blond hair and blue eyes. He dressed in tailored pants and a business shirt. He would not have looked out of place on a yacht, or in a board room.

In the dream he was walking around the world holding an orange. He would approach people at random, and ask them questions about the orange. Where do you think the orange comes from? Who grows the orange? What might their lives be like? How much water does it take to grow an orange? How much land? What was on the land before the oranges were grown there? How did the orange get here? How much does an orange cost to buy? Where did oranges originate from?

He could turn up anywhere - in Mumbai, or Suva, or Tokyo, asking these same questions, very open questions, not answering the questions himself, just opening up the possibility for people to think about an ordinary item in front of them, and their food, and their world.

In the dream i wondered, as you do in dreams, whether he ate the orange each night and started each day with a fresh one, and what it would be like to be him, sleeping each night in a different place, waking each day and looking for a fresh orange.

He reminded me of that other great wanderer of purpose, Peace Pilgrim. She was a seemingly ordinary woman in her fifties who left her suburban home one day on foot, in 1952,  and never returned. She changed her name to Peace Pilgrim and vowed she would walk around the USA until humankind adopted the way of peace. She wore a dark blue tracksuit because it was practical, and carried almost nothing. She slept anywhere, often outside, and trained her mind to accept any hardship. She was deeply Christian, and talked to everyone she met about peace and about her own experience of spirit. She became very well known and was interviewed on media wherever she went. She was killed in a car accident in the 1980's. People have tried to emulate her but were never able to stick at it. She wrote a very simple book, a pamphlet really, about her life and thoughts, which is available free on line. What a way to do a mid life crisis. It really was a pilgrimage.

Back to the man with the orange, i can answer some of his questions. According to the US Geological Survey it takes 13 gallons of water to grow an orange, and 48 gallons to grow a glass of orange juice. Most of the world's oranges are grown in Brazil, and i wonder what the land was like there before the oranges were grown. Taking into account the use of land and soil, the water, the labour, the cost of transport and logistics and distribution, what is the real price of an orange?

i can also say something about the history of the orange. Oranges come from South East Asia originally, and thye came to Europe in late medieval times. The name for the colour orange is actually from the fruit rather than the other way around. Before oranges came to England the name for the colour was the Middle English version of red-yellow. When they did arrive in Europe they were considered very exotic and were quite rare. i remember from the literature of my childhood oranges were given as Christmas gifts, such was their rarity, even into the twentieth century. Pineapples were even rarer. In the early modern period in Europe, pineapples were far too flash to eat. The wealthy would rent a pineapple for a dinner party, just for the evening, and individual pineapples would travel the country being hired out for special occasions - presumably accompanied by their minders who had to resist actually eating their source of income

i can imagine no food being so exotic. Food is so processed, even oranges are pumped with a chemical to 'degreen' them which is why all our supermarket oranges are so, well, orange. Our types of apple are so developed as to look good under the lights, to have a uniform glossy skin and to travel well, rather than for taste and nutrition. Food is now that most global of products. What is now considered fine and expensive, is locally and organically grown. We pay more for less food miles, and for any certain knowledge about where our food comes from.

Well, Orange Guy, if you exist anywhere outside my dream, come to my town and teach me more.


  1. I guess the whole gig has to do with sensing (not just seeing) behind, beyond, over and above, beneath and underlying, before and alongside, appearances... We aren't so crash hot at doing that, are we? Very visual, our world...

  2. The confirming thingy said "1920 whysesU". I dunno, but that somehow seemed a portentous question...