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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The only snow on my post today is the thin coating you can see on the grass in the background of this photo! This lovely little lily of the valley was a Christmas present from a friend and I can't tell you how lovely it is to see it blooming just now. It is a little on the leggy side but then I don't suppose lily of the valley is really intended as an indoor plant but the blooms have an amazing perfume and it is new and fresh and green and I love it!

Thinking about my little plant reminded me that the other day I came across some pictures and a piece of writing I had done some years ago when I joined a Creative Writing group with the U3A and I thought I'd share both with you today - if you are interested? If not skip to the final paragraph!


I think I must have been a gardener or perhaps a florist in an earlier life as it is flowers that evoke my childhood more than anything else. Sorting through some postcards recently I came upon one showing a clump of snowdrops and I was immediately transported back to the 1950s. My mother and I were living at that time with my grandfather who still lived in the house in the Forest of Dean in which my mother grew up. Many of mother's aunts and uncles still also lived in the area and it was a regular outing of ours to go and visit Uncle Sid and occasionally Aunty Ede who both lived a short distance away in the little hamlet of Pope's Hill. We usually walked there passing through the village of Littledean where my mother's mother was buried in the little churchyard behind the Methodist Chapel. Sometimes we would stop off there to put flowers on Granny's grave and I would take the jar to the tap at the back of the chapel and fill it with water and return to the graveside where my mother would be pulling up weeds and trying to tidy the simple grassy mound. In summer I liked the peaceful feeling of the little walled graveyard slumbering quietly in the sunshine, its yellow stone walls covered with shiny green ivy, butterflies flitting about amongst the nettles and the sound of birdsong over all but in winter the tap was often frozen and on those afternoons I was glad to hurry on down the road past the village shops and on past the old prison, which looked so dark and forbidding and along the wide road towards Pope's Hill.
On this particular day we must have decided to call in on Aunty Ede - my maternal grandmother's sister - who lived with a man I only knew as Kruger. I think there was probably some story behind ther relationship as she was not married to him and he was not generally liked by our family but whatever the story I didn't know it. He was rarely to be seen anyway as he spent most of hiis time at the Greyhound where what little money he had was swilled own his throat in the form of rough cider. Aunty Ede's cottage was very picturesque in its setting and as we opened the scruffy little gate with its peeling paint and trudged up the rutted path to her door I noticed that the grass under the gnarled old apple trees which formed the main part of the garden was carpeted with snowdrops. Their tiny delicate stems belying their strength as they forced their way through the cold hard ground to produce flowers of such delicacy and beauty they took my breath away. Each snowy white bell so beautifully marked with fine green lines and bravely swaying in the wind. I was allowed to pick a little bunch to take home and I can still feel the thin tough stems between my freezing fingers and the dark green satiny texture of the ivy leaves which I picked to put with my little posy.
Aunty Ede's house was picturesque alright in its setting but it was in a vey poor state and I can remember the galvanised buckets strategically place to catch the rain which found its way in through the ceiling. Nowadays nobody would be allowed to live in such conditions - no running water, no electricity, no gas no nothing really! There was a well in the garden for water, candles or parafin lamps for light and an old black range stove which when they could find enough dry wood or afford an occasional bag of coal they used for heating and cooking purposes.
Aunty Ede was fond of animals and she had a few hens which scratched out some sort of living in the garden and at one time she had an orphaned chick whish she kept under her jumper to keep it warm! My family has always had its eccentrics and I dare say I shall follow suit- some might say I already have although I have never had a chicken under my jumper or at least not yet!
Of course it wasn't always winter and in the spring the walk to Pope's Hill was wonderful as the ladysmocks with their soft pale mauve flowers dusted the meadows often with a gobbet of cuckoo spit attached, the primroses grew in cheerful yellow mounds along the banks to be follwed later by nodding golden cowslips, delicate wood anemones, tiny fragrant violets white, pink and deep purple ones, scented bluebells and many other wild flowers which I gathered to take home and display in a jam jar.
Further up the lane lived Uncle Sid - Aunty Ede's brother - and it was his house that we most often visited. He lived in the house which had been my maternal Grandmother' childhood home and to which my mother had often gone to stay as a child. Mother used to tell me stories of how it was in her grannmother's day with the spotless white tablecloths and the dainty china patterned with pansies but there was not much evidence of such fripperies by the time I saw it as by then it had an air of neglect with its peeling paint and grubby windows. Uncle Sid lived there alone and he too was something of an eccentric. In all the years we visited he never once invited us in even in the winter and we would stand outside the back door under the covered porch talking to him for an hour or so before making our way home again. I think he was ashamed of the state of the inside of the house but he was proud of his garden which although he was somewhat disabled he did manage to keep fairly well under control and here it is the many coloured polyanthus each with its yelow centre, the waxy coral japonica and the glutinous bluebells that I remember most. He had an enormous old cider press which always fascinated me although I never saw it in use. There were a couple of orchards adjoining the garden and sometimes in dry weather I would disappear off to play in these whilst my mother talked to her uncle at the door. Of course in spring these orchards were a mass of apple blossom and the perfume went some was to mitigaing the smell of rotting apples, unwashed bodies and general decay.
When the conversation was finished we would wend our way back down the lane and if we had enough money and had timed it right we would sometimes catch the Gloucester bus back up the hill to my grandfather's but more often than not and certainly if the weather was fine we would walk it - occasionally stopping off at the village shop in Littledean to by 3d worth of sweets on the way. Acid yellow sherbert lemons were my favourites but my mother preferred the black and white striped humbugs.
When eventually Uncle Sid died he left the house to my mother and as about that time Kruger had also died leaving Aunty Ede homeless she went to live in it until she too died some years later. It was a slight improvement on what she had at Kruger's but not much and when she died my mother sold it for a tiny sum - it being in need of almost total renovation. I saw it again years later when I was on holiday in the area and it had been totally done up and looked very nice but it must have been a tremendous job and cost an enormous ammount of money to make it habitable. I can still see the old iron gate though and hear it clang as we made our way up the path between the velvety polyanthus to the back door with its peeling pale grey paint and hear the birdsong over all. Childhood memories.

I will finish by saying a huge Thank you to all those of you who have so kindly commented on my recent posts. I seem to have found some new cyber friends via the 20 minute creativity challenge and for that my thanks go to Fi at
Marmalade Rose. I continued with my crochet yesterday and will do so again today. By the way to those of you who thought I had done the patchwork piece in 20 minutes I am sorry to disillusion you but the challenge is to do "at least" 20 minutes each day and that particular piece took me several days in total!
And to Emma at Around the hook - the recipe for the fat ball mixture for feeding the birds is easy - just melt some hard fat (I used cheap beef dripping) and stir in any bread or cake crumbs you may have along with some seeds and dried fruit (whatever you have to hand) and put the mixture into a mould and leave in a cold place till set firm - easy eh?!

Here is the Gold Medalist doing what he does best - why would he want to go out in the cold when he could be safely ensconced on his mum's crochet blanket all morning (and probably all afternoon too if I know him)?!


  1. Oh Jane, Gold Medalist is so like Bobbi except for the colour of their pads!
    I really like the pot conaining your lily of the valley, it matches completely. Was that more accident than design? Your little piece on Memories is really poignant - you should take up writing again...
    I'm quite reieved you didn't make your little pillow in 20 minutes, I was beginning to think you had magical powers!
    Glad the snow has almost disappeared - we had a few flurries earlier but it does seem to be thawing today.

    Jeanne x

  2. Hi Jane, I do believe you have a lovely book inside your heart. The lily of the valley looks fragile but still sprite and I love the snowdrops...little cats and lemon primroses remind me of Spring..thanks for that I'm sure it is on it's way!
    Linda x

  3. Your blog and your stories are such a treat. So warm and friendly. I loved your creative writing story, and realized that certain flowers remind me of my childhood also; Queen Anne's Lace, red roses, lilacs, etc. Your story is charming and so descriptive, I could just imagine your walk and the houses. It just sounds so 'typically English' with the quirky names of the towns and villages, like something out of 'Lark Rise to Candleford' or my other favorite book, 'The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady'. The life and times you described were so much slower then--life at a slower pace--something that I try to recapture in my own life by not listening to the radio or having the TV blaring. So glad I found your blog, I love reading and seeing photos of what is going on in your country and where you live.
    I have Lily of the Valley in my backyard, but it tends to take over. The scent is wonderful--I like 'Muguet des Bois' perfume.

  4. Your descriptions are so evocative.... I miss being able to get Spring flowers - in my part of France they don't even sell daffodils in bunches, let alone violets and primroses, and I love them so...

  5. Lily of the Valley in January! Wonderful, I cannot get it to grow here, but this and your wonderful piece of writing brought so many memories of my childhood holidays with my Norfolk family many living in similar conditions to yours. My grandfather lived in a condemned cottage and did not leave until his last couple of years - he did live 'till he was 93.

  6. what a great idea to have lily of the Valley in a pot - I'm going to try that when they start to pop up in the garden - enjoyed your writing

  7. Lily of the Valley is one of my very favourite flowers, so delicate but deliciously fragrant. You're very lucky to have it at this time of year and then again in April. I'd never thought of potting them, perhaps I may give it a go for next Winter.

    Lovely post!

    Kate x

  8. Dear Jane, Your writing is amazing! I was just captivated by your creative writing and honestly wished it was longer. So descriptive I had a wonderful images in my mind. I hope you will share more again another day :-) Most certainly seems like you do have a book in the making!

  9. Cats seem to be so wise... that is why I want one!!

  10. Such beautiful memories - Lily of the Valley reminds me of my grandmother, her favourite perfume scent.

    take care and I loved reading your writings,

    Nina x

  11. Hi again Jane.

    Glad you liked the butter making! I forgot to add a link to the restaurant I was talking about. It is Do let me know if you end up going, I'd love to hear what you think!

    Kate x

  12. I Love your creative writing, certainly better than mine!!
    Your cat is cute :P
    Lucy xx

  13. Thanks for the recipe! Will have to consider buying something comming from animals, maybe I'll ask mom! :-)

    Have a lovely weekend!

  14. Jane, what a wonderful piece of writing. Just wonderful and so lovely to have shared your memories. It makes you realise just how hard some people have had it in their lives, and yet the flowers return, year in year out.

    Love your moggie....... mine is doing exactly the same, he's a Lounge Lizard!

  15. I love lili-of=the-valley Jane and snowdrops are one of my favouriet too. So pure and delicate aren't rhey? xx

  16. Such a delightful little tale, it is wonderful what memories are stirred by writing or reading a story...
    I have never heard of ladysmocks, at least not way over here but they sound beautiful.
    Your kitty is most handsome.

  17. Nice to see a fellow gardener and crafter in the 20 minuters. I love gardening however mine looked very sorry last year. We love to produce our own food, but we havent had the time to do everything that we wanted too. And gardens are great inspirations too.

  18. That was such a lovely account - a real evocation of a country childhood - I loved it!

    Pomona x


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