Heard Aled Jones singing ‘Have you seen my lady in the garden walking . . .’ and, quite unexpectedly, the gardens I remember came into my mind.
The one which left the biggest impression was the back-garden of my childhood home in Dunstall Road, Wolverhampton. Cluttered is the best way to describe it, I think. My Gran’dad Bayliss lived in the small terrace-house next door to ours and – as he was a general builder, painter and decorator (despite his crippled left leg) – we sort of shared our gardens to keep his general building junk (sorry, Gran’dad) in a couple of sheds which he’d built himself. There were ladders leaning against them, and planks of wood and a lot of etceteras, and inside were work-benches, tools and lots of half-empty paint tins.
He’d built a greenhouse, too, at the bottom of our garden in which he grew tomatoes (with help from Dad), and a chicken-pen in his own. The eggs produced were either allowed to hatch to make the next crop of hens, or eaten by our family in those short-of-cash times. Some of the hens were killed and eaten, too.
Dad had a small shed near the house, mainly to keep his bike in, and a tiny patch of soil near it where he tried to grow a few vegetables. He gave up trying after several years, grass-seeded his little patch, and planted a small apple-tree in the centre. He died, aged 57, long before that tree had grown and produced fruit – and I remember Mom saying sadly that she and he had looked forward to sitting under its shade in their old age. Mom died, aged 61, four short years after Dad.
There was a central, communal path which, over the passing of time, Gran’dad made less muddy by using old bricks to surface it. It made it easier to wheel the truck on which he pushed his tools and various pieces of building material from place to place. Dad helped him (when he wasn’t labouring for long hours of shift-work in scruffy factories).
I recall Dad pushing that loaded truck all the way to Codsall and back, with me perched on the thing. That would be pushing the truck a distance of ten miles or so.
Yet there were a few flowers allowed to grow in both those gardens. For some reason, fire-lilies are the ones I remember.
And, as I think about those two-gardens-made-into-one, I sort of see the scene in black-and-white! Can it be that photos of the time had that effect on me?