Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Death of a Friend

March 6, 2013

ImageMy friend Brenda has died. But she will never be dead to me. She is too much part of my childhood, influencing who and what I am.

I recall the day I first met her. We were about eight years old. She was skipping outside the huge gate and high walls of her big garden. Her big ‘mansion’ house — posh to me — was the other side of the road from where I lived with my family in a modest late Victorian semi. Her garden is stuck in my memory too. Not just the profusion of fruit growing on trees and bushes — apples, pears, plums, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries, and such — but the grass on which we played silly games, practiced three-legged races, played tennis with each other and her brothers, pretended we were famous entertainers. And, oh, so much more. It was another world where make-believe became almost reality. Plant pots were moulds for making sand cakes and pies. The sand having been carried back from the river a mile away, no easy task for a couple of young girls.

But if the garden was another world, so was the attic room where we played on cold and wet days. Her lovely mum would even light us a little fire occasionally, which we would huddle round and daydream. As we grew older, we even danced to my sister’s old wind-up gramophone, eventually turning our efforts into concerts for the family.

We bought our own records. Over the years, we developed our tastes through visiting the cinema a lot, sitting in the gods at the Nottingham Theatre when a ballet was on. And attending concerts at the Little Theatre, and generally ‘picking up’ our musical tastes from what we saw and heard. But not just musical tastes: we enjoyed the cinema and had our favourite films and stars. We saw one 1947 film — Song of Scheherazade — so many times that we wrote out the script then acted the parts at Brenda’s house. We saw all of Jean Pierre Aumont’s films.

As young teenagers, what a pair of dreamers we were. We carried the wind-up gramophone to the local gravel pits by the river. There we played our Swan Lake record to the swans gathered there.

As young children our amusements were quite simple: Skipping, hop-scotch, ball play, pencil and paper games, including battleships and cruisers. We collected wild flowers and pressed them in books. Wanting an Arrowhead flower that grew in the local canal, I dangled Brenda over the edge of the tow path and sat on her legs while she picked it with a garden rake. We drew and painted pictures. And we made our scenery for our little concerts. A large hall mirror flat on the attic floor, with flowers and leaves around the edges, made a lovely pool to go with Dance of the Flowers. Coloured paper over a bike lamp, plus sticks for the ‘fire’, and a bowl of water to throw liver salts into for effect, was great when dancing the Ritual Fire Dance (her young niece screamed when the liquid suddenly ‘bubbled’ up sending froth over the floor.) Bolero was a favourite too. We made our own costumes.

We lit too many candles one day and the wax ran all over the concrete floor. Brenda was very good at scrubbing, she was a methodical and steady worker. I soon gave up patient scrubbing and quickly mopped my part of the floor. Brenda cleaned the outside of the window by sitting on the outside cill with me holding on to her legs. We trusted each other.

There are so many things I could talk about concerning our childhood. (Many things are in my little illustrated book of childhood memories — When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes, extracts are on my various blogs) In our teens we had holidays together — Prestatyn, London, Isle of Wight.) I could write a chapter on each one! It was meeting my husband-to-be that eventually separated us. We moved to a different part of the country but we always stayed in touch.

Dear Brenda, you will always be a part of who I am — the gentler part.

Photo — Brenda (on front horse) and me, having a go at riding while on holiday at Little Canada Holiday Camp IofW 1952

Returning again to a time gone by…

June 11, 2011

Returning again to a time gone by…
Highfields Park at Nottingham University June 2011

Many nests around

Lovely views through the trees. Years ago we could not walk that side of the lake

Heron standing in the stream where I took my first photograph 65 years ago

We stood where only students were once allowed.

Through the trees, over the lawns to the white University building.

Years agom we used to see students strolling and sitting on the lawns in front of the stately white building. My brother was one of the early students there — rare for a working class boy who left school at fourteen!

Highfields Park Lake. It was here that my brother fell from a boat and lost his glasses. His suit shrank and he arrived home dripping wet! So much for celebrating the end of term!

As we (my husband and I) entered the café at Nottingham University’s Highfields Park, the theme of the music being played was about ‘going home’. How appropriate! I was visiting once more the ‘playground’ of our youth where so many memories come flooding back.
The only time I met any of our cousins was when they visited our home in Beeston during the war, and we all went to that particular park. The adults talked while we rolled on the sloping grass.

As a teenager I walked there with my brother and youths laughed at the red spot I had on the tip of my nose. (When I reached home, against all advice, I squeezed it until its contents flowed with blood).

At fourteen, on the lake I turned into a Boadicea by fighting boys off with an oar when rowing on the lake. On the little island, under the Wishing Tree, I wished for a first kiss. Under the willow trees I met with a friend who drew boys like bees to nectar (hoping some of it would rub onto me but never did!)

As a family we occasionally walked there on Sundays — my dad was stung on his lip — his lips and face swelled and turned purple. (I was scared stiff!)

It was in the park lake that my brother, celebrating the end of term with his student friends, fell from a boat and lost his glasses. He arrived home dripping water from a suit sodden and quickly shrinking to several sizes smaller.

I saw the little stream where I took my first photo with a box camera. I took a photo of a heron in that very stream — but now with a digital camera.

I looked up at the elegant University building and recalled my brother taking me to a ‘going down hop’ — he’d pressed his trousers with a damp cloth and spent much time scratching at his buttocks!

It was in this park that I walked with my husband to be, and now after 58 years of marriage little had changed, except for growth of trees and loss of paddling pool. Less flowers and more weeds. More students in more university buildings but not affecting the park. One important change, it is now possible to walk ALL the way round the lake AND there is a cultural centre (complete with café) replacing the pavilion.
The huge Nottingham Queen’s hospital has appeared over the years. My mother had an operation there in 1987 to remove a cancer from her stomach.
It so happened to coincide with a conference for Apple computer users. I was able to share a two-bedroomed apartment with my son in the residential buildings within University park. From there I was able to freely visit my mum for the whole weekend. To me, staying amongst the Apple enthusiasts was like going to a ‘Revivalist’ conference — enthusiasm and excitement combined with a friendly welcome and warmth of spirit. In fact I have been to religious conferences far less friendly! Here I was invited to join in with the talks and demonstrations etc but I declined and visited a sister a few miles away. The walk, part of it through the park, did me good. Apart from eating and sleeping, the rest of the time I was with my mother.
Close to (or within?) the Park there used to be Highfields Lido. Alas no more, it went years ago. I never did learn to swim at the Lido but memories of Eric the cad still linger!

True treasure never fades

May 29, 2011

A golden chest of memories

A bird sings for Bill

Inside San Diego Zoo, within a cage where birds fly freely, one feathered friend with orange beak
has chosen my brother out of everyone there to sing him a melody.

Does he know that Bill is dying, his spirit caged within a rotting frame?

We laugh to see the bird standing on Bill’s head. Well, not quite because Bill is wearing his familiar cap, so much part of him when out of doors. Under the cap’s brim Bill is laughing with his eyes and with his curling lips. We surely see his whole body laughing even though Bill stands perfectly still.

The bird sings from his makeshift perch and our hearts sing too, Bill is relaxed and happy. It’s not often we see my brother at peace within himself. Many trials and tribulations have befallen this good man — too much pain, too much torment for one man to bear.

This was a moment to remember, a precious ruby picked from a treasure chest of memories of ones we’ve loved but are no more. Beloved parents, brothers, sisters, friends. How well I recall that precious moment when, after a time of intense suffering in a state of paranoid dementia, my mother murmured her last words — ‘Good night Luvvy.’

Not just loved ones live on within that golden chest, but also memories of family, and of things achieved and cherished that dwindle through time to dust. For the world moves as do the seasons — a time to live and a time to die. But within that golden chest each moment, each object, each love never dies as long as memory remains…

Picture — painting inspired by a photograph taken while on a caravan holiday along the Scottish coast.

Nottingham University Highfields Park — Revisited

September 27, 2010

Nottingham University Highfields Park — Revisited

The fine Trent Building in University Park, Nottingham

Highfields Park lake. The path we used to tread.

We have been away a few days visiting family and friends, plus places where I used to frequent when I was a young child growing into an adult.
So here are photographs of the elegant Trent Building built in University Park and formally opened by His Majesty King George V in 1928. Nottingham University has a proud history, but with all the benefits to learning come these wonderful amenities for the ordinary citizen.
As a child, I walked there occasionally with family or friends, rowed boats with my friend Brenda, played tennis with school friends and met a boy that I was silly enough to want as a boyfriend. Silly? Well, I was only twelve at the time and knew nothing about boys. He was only after getting a propelling pencil from my dad anyway. Did he think I was going to steal it? What a cad! Bounder, breaker of hearts! Yes, that was Eric.
So we walked around the lake and passed by the spot where my dad was stung by a bee on his lips, which puffed up like balloons. And years later, where he swore at my mum because his hard-to-control wheel chair was heading for the water’s edge. “Are you trying to bloody drown me?” We walked by the willow trees we used to sit under, and walked over stepping stones with a view of the waterfall — generally indulging in reminiscences of a former age.
In the University building I went to a ‘going down hop’ with my student brother (he died three years ago). In a boat similar to one there, I repelled would-be boarders with a good-sized oar (served them right for trying to overpower us fair maidens).
And the lake itself where we used to see huge fish, and where somewhere lies my brother’s glasses, lost in the lake when fooling around with his student mates. (Worse, his only suit shrank!)
The grassy slopes where we rolled as kids, and where my teacher cousin took us in her car (the only time I met my cousin). The path where youths mocked a bright red spot I had on my nose.
And so memories continue to flow and flow…

Looking across the lake to the park entrance from the University lawn

The Trent Building from the lakeside by the lawns. Where we used to see students sitting with books or chatting.

The waterfall above the stepping stones at the lower end of the lake. Beautiful!