Words: Rosie Clark
When I was – oh, I don’t know – so high, Mum took me for a walk up the road. Grown-ups look straight ahead; children look down and sideways. Curled up beside the road was a hedgehog. I assumed it was having a nap. This one had white things weaving in and out of its spines. Fascinating. Mum told me they were fleas and until just a moment ago, you know, I believed her. In those days she didn’t make stuff up, or so I thought. But of course, fleas are black. The white ones are maggots.
Leave it alone, dear. It’s dead.
In Nan’s garden I made buttercup chains, held long conversations with bunny-rabbit flowers, watched Nan sitting out in the sunshine on a kitchen chair shelling peas into an enamel bowl or Grandad stooping to hoe potatoes or plant radishes. In Nan’s garden there were warm Easter Days and crisp, icy Christmases when the rose bush on the lawn had all but disappeared under snow. In Nan’s garden I picked cherry-pairs to dangle over my ears. Once Nan dangled cherries too, and cavorted around the tree.
Look at me, I’m just like Carmen Miranda.
Mum didn’t dance – she stood and watched us.
I once had a sepia photograph of that same garden. It’s lost now. Nan’s sitting at a wooden table under the tree, holding an infant in a white kind of shawl or shroud. That must be my mother. Grandad stands to one side looking proud but awkward, all saggy suit and sticky-out ears. All three of them feel as if they’re looking out at me, but I’m not even born.
Something’s gone wrong with time and it’s a lonely feeling. The garden in the photograph both was and was not Nan’s garden. The town I still visit on Sundays both is and is not the place I grew up in. My mother is mad now; recalcitrant. And Nan and Grandad …
Leave them alone, dear. They’re dead.
Rosie lives in a muddy, windswept corner of south-east England. She lives with thirteen cats (and counting) and exists, somehow or other, on the State Retirement Pension. She writes because she has to and because it’s the way she thinks. Her blog is called La Tour Abolie which means The Ruined Tower in French.