Sunday, May 15, 2011

Introspection

Today is sunday, I'm not too good, the cold air got to my lungs a couple of days ago, and now they ache just like they used to do when I was a child suffering from ashma. But of course it brought back memories of childhood, and today looking out on all the flowers I had planted in pots it made me remember the garden in Willenhall, a beautiful garden for us children.
I had a somewhat weird childhood, too complicated to explain, suffice it to say that I was brought up by my paternal grandfather, and 'experienced' three stepmothers.  But these things passed my half-brother and I by, and we were looked after by an Italian maid called Lousia at the house.
It was a double fronted bay window Victorian house, facing onto the street, with a large wall to the side hiding the lawn behind.  On the other side was a driveway, large gates blocked the yard behind.
The garden was formalised Victorian, three lawns and paths all the way around, about three-quarters of an acre.
It was looked after by a gardener, Jack I think his name was and his son helped sometimes, the garden was his domain, he loved and cherished it.  Great apple and pear trees lined the sides and across the garden, so that it was always rather cool on the pebbled paths.  We climbed those trees and sat in their branches, and when the fruit was ripe, Louisa would climb up to get the apples, they would be put in large golden wicker baskets below, and then would be stored down in the cellar on the shelves, their sweet smell through the winter permeating up to the corridor above.
Outside the backdoor of the house that led off from the scullery, was another small yard with steps down to the back lawn, to the side was a gaunt old monkey tree, leading off from the yard were the coal houses and outside loo, plus a greenhouse in which I kept my 'animals' fish, frogs and small mammals.
Coal houses are a thing of the past now, but the house had no central heating, a great black range in the kitchen needed fuel all the time, and though fires were hardly lit in the other rooms, one fire had to be kept going in one of the reception rooms for the family.  We must eventually have had gas installed  because there were gas fires in the bedrooms.
About three-quarters up the garden, there was the third lawn, not exactly a lawn, it framed a very long herbaceous border, a riot of colour in summer, tiger lilies, nemesis, delphinums, lupins and dahlias.  At the end was a long sand pit, on two sides surrounded by gladiolis and flag irises. This sandpit I would retire to on weekends, with my library books and some sweets and just read books from cover to cover, 
(a terrible habit I still have, not being able to put a book down) trickling the smooth silky sand through my toes..
This part of the garden also had a shrubbery, and behind the shrubbery, the last path by the high brick wall had small trees with lots of little apples, bright red, not sure what they were, quinces maybe.
A child's paradise, though we moved on by the time I was twelve, the house now has probably  ended  split up and the garden has half a dozen houses on it, I would'nt like to go back and check.  But that garden was very formative for me, and obviously developed a great love for flowers, wild creatures and strangely enough books set as it were in the industrial heartland of the Midlands.
Childhoods are strange things, our environment dictates the way we see the rest of the world, the humans, and yes I use such an abstract term, for all those people that drifted into and out of my life then.
Louisa went and married a Polish man, I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, all I can remember was the Catholic church she was married in, sugared sweets at the reception and the men dancing in that crouched manner, which I always thought of as Hungarian.  Once when I had a small collie puppy we left it with Louisa to look after whilst we went on holiday.  It was sick with distemper and must have had diarrhea quite badly.  Coming back to collect it, I learnt my first swear word as Louisa dramatically  exclaimed succinctly what it had done all over the place.  The puppy died of course and I broke my heart over its death, grandfather got me an enormous St.Bernard dog to console me, but she had to go back to the kennels after a few weeks, being a kennel dog she had the same trouble in the house! 

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