Pumpkin Soup

a weblog with an allotment attached

15 August 2009

Nostalgia – parte the firste

Gill over at mtp has recently asked her readers, ‘Why do you grow?’ It’s an interesting question and nicely taps into a few things that have been on my mind recently so I thought I would give it some attention here. As it says in the title, this is part one – it’s a long story…

I do not come from a family where gardening was a great passion and throughout my childhood I was never really interested in growing anything – my attention span was far too flighty for something that required so much patience and time. But I certainly have some pretty vivid garden-related memories that have proved to be influential in my life.

Teasel 1

When I was about four or five and we moved out of a bedsit into a newly built council house where there was quite a big garden. It was in a dreadful state and even I noticed how awful the earth was – full of rocks and clay. But my  mum and dad lciked it into some kind of shape and grew potatoes and cabbages there (potatoes and cabbages – way to win a young child over to mealtimes, guys!). I remember spending time outside with my parents when things were being planted. I was allowed to grow some seeds of my own so I tried sweetcorn and some flowers, but didn’t really take much of an interest and nothing came of them that I recall. It probably wasn’ t all that long after then that my parents split up, so perhaps it’s not surprising that in my memory the cabbages remained unharvested and went on to flower while the rest of the garden became something of a wilderness. I don’t know what happened to the potatoes.

I also have a  powerful memory of the proud purple Irises that my Mum planted underneath the kitchen window at the front of the house. I loved the rich velvet of the flowers when they appeared. They seemed so unexpected and out of place – a little patch of opulence amid an otherwise unremarkable landscape. It was so drab on that estate and the irises seemed almost obscenely sensual and rich by comparison. All reasons why purple became my favourite colour.

Teasel 2

Some time later we (me, mum and my step-dad) moved house and were nearer the very outskirts of the town, surrounded by fields and farms and hedgerows. My Mum started to get more interested in gardening but it still passed me by. By this stage music had me in its grip and that was a pastime with much more immediate results for the effort expended.

Each autumn, however, we would wander the roads and lanes near us, foraging for brambles. We would pick bags and bags of blackberries, staining our fingers and lips deep purple in the process, scratching our arms and wandering miles from home (or so it seemed) in a competition to see who could find the largest berry. Mum would bake endless pies with our bounty. I used to have to rub the fat into the flour to make ‘breadcrumbs’ for the pastry – a job I hated. But homemade pies were a real treat as cakes and pies and puddings in general did not feature very often on our dinner table.

In this house my Mum had some dried teasels in a vase. I thought they were ugly, prickly, slightly scary things. I knew, because I learned at school, that they used to be used for carding wool. That was momentarily interesting but could not make me love them. And I’m pretty sure I had no idea that they came from plants.

Teasel 3

So this year, when I discovered that the very strange and enormous plants that had self-seeded in an extremely waterlogged pot were turning out to be teasels, you would think that I’d get rid of them immediately, wouldn’t you? No room for such scary, ugly things in my garden, surely? But you see, even though I disliked them then, I really rather like them now. Largely because they are a prickly reminder of (a sometimes equally prickly) childhood.

The teasels stay.

Filed under: Nostalgia — Clare @ 7:48 pm


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