The postman brought this new catalogue yesterday - it is so beautifully presented I feel like a kid in a sweetie shop just reading it!
I want it all! It did however remind me that it is a while since I posted about my childhood and how it is that flowers seem to trigger memories for me.
So the following is another of my occasional ramblings on childhood memories - if you are not interested in that just skip the rest of the post!
Geraniums – I love them love the bright cheery colours and the smell too I like. I just have to rub my fingers across the leaves and then sniff – Mmmm!. As with many other flowers they are very evocative to me of times past.
When I was about 7 we moved to Suffolk where my mother had taken a job as cook at Reydon Hall http://local.upmystreet.com/picture-of-reydon-hall-near-southwold-suffolk-id-1067982.html We had a little apartment on the ground floor just behind the kitchen where we had a bedroom with windows opening onto the garden, a tiny kitchenette and a small rather dark sitting room with a red brick fireplace. There was a toilet and washbasin off the bedroom and a bathroom for our use on the second floor. The sitting room was dark partly because the window looked out onto the roof of the boiler house and this flat roof had a sort of raised bed built on top which was at certain times of the year filled with red geraniums. So although the room was shaded by plants the colour was often bright and cheerful. I loved my life there and although we had our own sitting room I was more often to be found either outside in the grounds or in the kitchen with my mother.
The kitchen was a large cosy room with windows on two sides, a big table in the middle and a huge Aga at one end in front of which were usually to be found several cats sleeping! One of the cats went missing one day and we could hear her calling but couldn’t find her anywhere and some time later when my mother opened the bottom warming oven to put the plates in to warm in readiness for lunch there was Spikey! We thought she was dead but she revived and went on to be the mother of several more batches of kittens!
One of Spikey’s kittens was a little ginger tom and she adored him and continued to cart him round in her mouth long after he was too big for such indignities. She eventually managed to tear through the skin on the scruff of his neck - he was far too heavy to be dragged round and her teeth were sharp! Poor Bassie (Sebastian) had to have his neck stitched and bandaged by the vet after that and I think Spikey realised that the bandage wasn’t very nice in her mouth and gave up carrying him. He didn’t seem to be in any way affected by his rather odd beginning in life though he must have been a little slow on the uptake or he wouldn’t have put up with it would he?
Another cat was Sooty – a black cat as you’d expect - who was a wonderful mother and usually seemed to be either pregnant or to have a litter of kittens to care for. When she was pregnant she loved the taste of chocolate and especially liked KitKat fingers! She would allow me and the family’s children to dress her up and wheel her about in the dolls’ pram and one time she chose this pram for her confinement!
I was forever rescuing the mice and occasional rabbits which the cats brought into the kitchen and sometimes got bitten by the victim for my efforts – no thoughts then of disease or whatnot and nothing dire ever happened to me luckily.
There were extensive grounds and I used to spend hours wandering through the kitchen garden (never the main garden of course!) and sometimes chatting with the gardener who let me go with him into the greenhouses and help him to pick the tomatoes – another scent which always takes me back! Or I would go down the lane to visit my friend whose mother was a domestic servant at the Hall and lived in one of the tied cottages nearby - the hedgerows seemed then to be always full of dog roses and honeysuckle and the verges filled with white cow parsley and other wild flowers. Of course it couldn't have been like this all the time and in winter it was bleak with the wind sweeping in from the east coast but it is the sunny summer days I remember most luckily
Another flower I always associate with this time and place is the gladiolus for there were many in the garden and in season a big arrangement in the entrance hall (not that I got to see that very often as I was not allowed to venture through to that part of the house)
We were living here when the King died and I well remember the sombre music interspersed with news reports all spoken in solemn tones that day on the radio – I didn’t understand why children’s hour was cancelled and why everyone seemed so miserable. See here for more on this day http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1802708.stm
Sadly my mother suffered a slipped disc and eventually required surgery. She was in hospital for 8 weeks and her sister gave up her own job and came to take over from my mother and to take care of me. Aunty Win and I used to cycle to Southwold to see her in the cottage hospital there but when she was transferred to the bigger hospital at Great Yarmouth for the operation we obviously couldn’t cycle and had to take the bus. I wasn’t allowed into the ward to see her – it was normal at the time that children were not allowed into the wards - and very distressing it was for me and I am sure for her too. My aunt was much stricter than my mother and I had to go to bed at 6.00 instead of being allowed to wait until 8.00 after dinner had been served as I had been used to doing with my mother – I hated those summer evenings when it was still light and I was incarcerated in the bedroom alone!
When my mother came out of the hospital having been told she would never work again we all three left Suffolk and went to stay at my grandfather’s house in the Forest of Dean. I can’t begin to imagine what my grandfather thought of this arrangement since having lived peacefully alone for so many years he now had two of his daughters and one of his granddaughters living with him so his peace would have been shattered.