Our topic for this month’s writing group is something poetic. I am still writing my collection of poems inspired by doing the laundry, which if I ever bring it together into a ‘small volume of verse’, will be called Washing Lines, but I rewrote a post from a couple of days ago, trying to use different language. It’s not quite right yet, more tweaks will be tweaked, but here is what I will share tomorrow:
A small park remembered
For some reason over the last few dull days, my thoughts have been drifting like smoke from an old bonfire, back to my childhood. I always thought I had a good memory of my early, even very early days of being in my dark blue pram, the white blanket, my view from an elevated position, the raised hood a safe place behind me, mum talking to friends. She was twenty-six, dark wavy hair, ever smiling, bright, flashing expressive eyes. I recall being a toddler in the back garden, in my green siren suit in the colder months. My sister arrived, ‘I will always love you and look after you,’ my little self actually said to her in the black taxi coming home from the hospital with mum. My sister had a pink face, and even then a calculating gaze from her tadpole coloured eyes.
I was five when grandma died, but I remember her so well and remember being with her. Sometimes forgotten memories are recalled; my cousin shared some photos from a long walk round the city, particularly around the area where we both used to live. There was a picture of the ornamental cherry trees which lined Milton Road going into Cambridge, still there despite the council cuts. I’d forgotten them but now they come vividly to mind. Gilbert Road joined Milton Road, and we used to walk along it every day to school. It was planted with alternate silver birch and crab apple trees, a wonderful sight at any time of year; the graceful birches, their silvery white bark, their multi-coloured pale leaves contrasting with the sturdy crab apples whose pink, scented blossom gave way in late summer to brilliant red and orange fruit hanging jewel-like among the darker green leaves.
My cousin had a photo which horrified me. It was of the library we used to visit as children where Mr Horsepool – yes, that was his curious name, was the librarian. We were both avid readers, borrowing our mums’ library cards to take out books from the adult section having read everything in the children’s. What horrified me was the photo wasn’t of the old library – it had been ripped down to be replaced by the ghastly anonymous building in my cousin’s picture.
Another shocker – although I was prepared for this, was our beautiful old junior school replaced by an abomination of flats and offices, totally characterless, totally tasteless. Our old school was where my dad and her mum attended, and we followed them thirty odd years later. The school was of historic significance, designed by enlightened architects to be a well-lit, spacious and a gracious place for young people in the early stage of their educational journey.
There were many images from my cousin, interesting, reminiscent, and I had recollections of scenes II forgot knew. However, it was something she mentioned which unlocked a different memory:
Cousin: Lois, Do you remember the timber yard on Carlisle Road, opposite Alexandra Gardens?
Me: Sadly no I don’t but I do now remember Alexander Gardens and being there with you and your brother and mum, and presumably grandma! That’s a lost memory recovered! Was there a bowling green and lots of roses?
I’d completely forgotten the little park, Alexandra Gardens which was behind grandma’s house. How many times did I visit it? Countless, yet it had slipped from my memory and now returned vividly in bright summer colours.
Alexandra Gardens! Grandma used to take us there when we stayed with her, and we’d meet my cousins who lived nearby. I‘m there now, seeing the magical park from my child’s point of view and I can almost feel the sun! There were banks of vivid plants and shrubs, rhododendrons or hydrangeas maybe, and bedding plants, and the air was full of the heady scent of wallflowers. There were lawns and other children, and mothers with pushchairs and prams, a busy place full of the sound of voices, little ones having fun, playing and scampering, in the sunshine.
Were there swings and a seesaw? Was there a bowling green with old chaps dressed in whiter? Do I remember these things or imagine them? Some memories are merely dreams, or blurred images of what was really there. Have I dreamt the bowling green, imagined it?
I chase the memory and looked up Alexandra Gardens, and this is how the council describe it now:
Alexandra Gardens is a pleasant green space with a circular path under mature trees around the perimeter. The fenced-in play area has a playhouse, swings and springers for younger children, and a climbing net for older children. There is also a sheltered bowling green and pavilion.
Once, where there was – and still is peace, and colour, there was noise and busy industry, the air full of dust. Brickworks! The brickworks closed in 1897, and then the city was swept by diphtheria. Come the turn of the century, this small plot, sloping down to the river was turfed and became a garden for civic enjoyment, including Italian poplars, lime trees, tennis courts, and yes, a bowling green.
And now – as when I was a child, old ladies walk, children play, sitters on benches take their ease, balls fly across the nets, workers enjoy a pleasant lunch break, and there still sounds the calls of white-clad bowlers on the green.