Outside the sky has turned darkest grey and for the first time that I can recall, we're having thunder and hailstones. Inside, I'm warm and surrounded by the scent of grapefruit blossom.
Thirty years ago I picked up a pip from the office floor and pushed it into one of my plant pots. The resident plant - a miniature rose, I believe - died from an infestation of red spider mite, but the pip, to my surprise, started to grow. I wasn't certain what it was, but as one of my staff used to eat a grapefruit every day, the odds were that it was a grapefruit tree I was nurturing.
A year later it seemed like I'd lost it when something attacked the stem and the main growth tip died, but it rallied and sent out a side shoot. Eventually, even that gave way to a reinvigorated main stem that shot away from the top.
Re-potting the tree several times, I found a way of moving it whenever I changed offices, and when I left the Civil Service in 1997, I brought it home with me, giving it pride of place in the bay window.
I learned that it didn't like tap water and that the best way of keeping it healthy was to let it dry out to the point of seeing the leaves droop and some even fall, then give it a good soaking with rainwater. A few days ago, it repaid me for the first time in thirty years by putting on a small display of three clusters of white blossom. The scent is startling and even those few clusters, now that they're open, are filling the room with it.
Xmas is rolling round again, as I expect you've possibly noticed. I stopped putting up an "official" Xmas tree about six years ago, but a few days before Xmas Day, I usually dress the grapefruit tree in tinsel and fairy lights. This year, I think it deserves an extra star.