Friday, 29 May 2009

Number 29

This must be the first weekend since perhaps this time last year where I can honestly say I have nothing planned, perhaps cutting the grass and that's it. I have pondered about sitting out, and enjoying the sun sheltered from the breeze and maybe listening to the FA Cup Final on the radio whilst enjoying the fresh air. Food has been bought in for the weekend and the car is already nice and clean. My wife has done the housework because she's been off this week and there's no washing and drying to do.

"A husband is what is left of the lover after the nerve has been extracted."
Helen Rowland.

So, this is a time perhaps I like most, taking the opportunity to relax, recharge the batteries, read, meditate and just chill out. Lazy? No I think I'm entitled now and then. One none energetic thing I will be doing is testing my memory again in meditation looking back to childhood, remembering smells, events, sounds, feelings, sights, people, home and whatever else comes to mind. My friend Shirley Ann says that most memory survives and is locked away somewhere and I guess that meditation really does allow recall to become easier and is certainly remarkably so in my case.

The large Victorian house - 'number 29' as the family remember it had surprisingly small gardens. The front was perhaps only eight feet deep, concreted with a small bird bath in the centre surrounded by four standard roses in neat square holes in the grey utility ground. London pride and cotoneaster grew on the edges and the low wall with sandstone top was convenient to sit upon and chat to whoever was around. The iron railings which must have once stood proud on the wall had clearly been taken during the war years to help with the effort against the enemy and surely built spitfires or tanks.

Mr Western lived next door, a former war hero who sadly decayed into dementia and alcoholism in his dotage. His back garden was untended and knee deep in nettles, always an unpleasant experience when trying to retrieve one's tennis or cricket ball. The back gardens were shallow too, perhaps twenty feet at most with borders made of sandy soil, made gritty over the years through dumping ash from the many fires in the house in the garden. A small home made concrete fish pond stood lonely in the corner of the garden with a lily that was too big for it and indeed dangerous for goldfish because my father, a fisherman had once brought home a pike he had caught in a plastic bag that he thought was dead with a view to feeding the cat, Thomas. The pike miraculously had survived the journey and refused to die and lived out its life in the pond for several years, feeding on goldfish and goodness knows what else - stray curious cats and birds landing on the lily pads to drink I suspect.

Although there was a toilet and separate bathroom in the house with a huge zinc bath, there was also an 'outhouse' and coal house next to it. The toilet had to have a little Kelly lamp lit in the winter to stop the water freezing. The coal house had coal and coke for different fires which for some reason were peculiar for what they would or wouldn't burn. The back garden was too small to play ball games in and friends and I would play cricket and football in the back ten-foot (because it was ten-foot wide) using Mr Kirkness's garage door as a goal or wicket.

This is the first and probably the last picture you will ever see of me, and that's as a young boy, seven or eight years old, proudly stood in the back garden of 'number 29' with Grandfather, a blind World War 1 veteran with one leg, the other having been shot off in the trenches. Spiritually, I know he's still around my family today even though we have moved many miles away; spirits have no sense of distance! A great background detail is Mr Western's 'outhouse' and coal house!

"Instead of getting married again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and just give her a house!"
Rod Stewart, musician.

Chat soon


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