Michael Hamburger


A walk round Metfield in Suffolk and its neighbouring farms. Hedgerows heavy with sloes, wild bullaces, and the last blackberries. But we were there to taste apples. Russet and Pippin and Spartan, but more unusual varieties too: Orange Goff, Orleans Reinette, Flower of Kent. Biting into my first Orange Goff, named not only for its colour but for its citrusy tang, I remembered Tacita Dean’s incredibly moving and beautiful film of the late Michael Hamburger and his orchard in Middleton (like a scene from Vermeer come to life) and WG Sebald’s description of ‘a few dozen diminutive crimson apples on the sill of [his] window darkened by the yew tree outside’. And these lines from Ted Hughes, Hamburger’s great friend and fellow apple lover: 'Through all the orchard’s boughs / A honey-colour stillness, a hurrying stealth, / A quiet migration of all that can escape now.’