Nothing sums up summer like a bowl of strawberries fresh from your own garden, sat on a table with a jug of cream beside them.
Nothing sums up summer like a bowl of strawberries fresh from your own garden, sat on a table with a jug of cream beside them.
The birds were singing the last songs of the day but it was still hot and hazy outside. I lent back in the garden lounger and looked at the wax crayon blue sky. It had been a beautifully day, one of this days ‘miracle’ like days that seem only to be in films.
Shutting my eyes, I relaxed into the heat, wishing and not for the first time that day, that I had a swimming pool to be dipping my feet into. We had had one in the last holiday villa we had stayed at. Oh, how it had been glorious to sit on the edge of the pool, legs in the cool water and sipping some sweet drink whilst the sun set behind the palm trees.
England didn’t really allow that setting. We didn’t have constant sun and heat that other European countries did. Still, on the rare days like this….
The clicking of ice against a glass made my eyes flicker open. My husband was stepping out of the house, two glasses of some pink fizz in his hands. He came over and hand me a glass, I smelt the hint of fruits and took a sip.
‘Something light and sweet for this hot evening,’ my husband explained.
‘What is it?’ I asked twisting the glass in my hand to inspected the drink.
Bubbles coated the sides of the glass and others raced to the surface fizzing and popping. Mint leaves floated along side the chunky ice cubes and the colour was a light pink hinting at the taste summer berries.
‘My own invention,’ my husband replied.
I took another few sips, nodded and spoke, ‘ I love it.’
Crossing another task of my long list of them, I looked through the pages; some computer typed and others handwritten which were stabled together, at the other jobs there. They were all D.I.Y tasks like; paint the fence, fix the bottom draw in the kitchen, put the wheel back on the shelf unit, replace the doorbell.
It was was strange to think that once I hardly had the time or else I would say I’d do it tomorrow and now I needed to fill the daytime up because my job was on hold. What better way to pass the time then getting through my lists?
Everyone else was in the same place and constantly I would hear the whirl of drills, the teeth-on- edge scrapping of a spade against rocks and the blasting chugging of a chainsaw. Voices would drift from other back gardens; children playing, neighbours talking loudly over their fences and the wind slapping shut doors.
I frowned over a scrawling of words at the bottom of the list but couldn’t make them out. The one below it appealed to me more then anything else; build wood plants for herbs and butterfly/bee liking flowers.
That sounded like a nice thing to get making.
The garden was alive. Birds were singing merrily, bees were buzzing around the blooming flowers but I wasn’t interesting. I could see the beauty of it from my back door and the way the sunlight caused a cast of shadows against the walls and flagstones.
The air was heavy with flowers, grass, damp earth and somewhere a faint hint of burnt toast. No doubt from one of my neighbours who was rushing through breakfast. I hadn’t eaten, couldn’t face the idea of food yet. I had a few sips of water and that was enough for the moment. Later, I would have a cup of tea and a biscuit.
There was nothing wanted to do today. TV was a boring old friend, going on about the same problems. The radio was a drone of sounds that washed each other out. The birds would start to annoy me soon, they seemed too happy, too caught up in spring joy.
Why couldn’t I be as happy as them? What did they do that made then feel so good?
I stepped outside, feeling the sun like hot bath water around me. The sky was a crystal blue, too pure to be real. The flowers were too brightly coloured. They swayed in the breeze as if nodding to each other. Bees visited the blooms and carried pollen away, they large fuzzy bodies cute like children’s TV characters.
I breathed deeply and sat down in a somewhat abandoned plastic garden chair.
I didn’t want to live in the shadows anymore, the light was so much better.
The garden centre is closing, discount sales on all plants, how useful is that for your new garden! Go now!
Once upon a time, a young Princess lived in a vast kingdom and her home was the mighty castle that stood at the heart of the country.
She lived with her parents; the King and Queen, nine siblings, many uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, other relatives and an army servants. The family were extreme close and enjoy being together.
One early autumn day, the young Princess and some of the other children were playing outside in the castle’s huge maze of gardens. The girls were catching butterflies and dragonflies whilst the boys hunted for beetles, worms and bugs.
The young Princess caught a very pretty butterfly that had many different reds, oranges and yellows on the wings.
‘I wish I could be like you, butterfly and know what it’s like the fly,’ the Princess whispered.
When the Princess went to bed that evening, her back hurt and she couldn’t settle to sleep. Her skin felt itchy and burning. She called for her Nanny – who was one of many in the castle- by ringing the bell by her bed.
Nanny came at once and looked at the Princess’ back.
‘Nettle rash? Or ivy? Perhaps something else?’ Nanny pondered, ‘well, whatever it is, here is some of Nanny’s magic lotion. It will cool and soothe and make that rash gone!’
The Princess nodded and let Nanny cover her upper back in a sweet smelling lotion.
That night the Princess hardly slept. She tossed and turned, not able to get comfy because her back hurt too much. She felt like her skin was on fire and began crying. The Princess rang the bell for Nanny and a maid then sat wailing till they arrived.
Nanny came and looked again at the Princess back. The skin was bright red and looked like it was bubbling.
‘Not a rash then. Sunburn?’ Nanny wondered, ‘don’t worry, Princess! Nanny has something for everything.’
Turning to the maid, Nanny asked for, ‘cold water, clean cloths and some warm milk.’
They washed the Princess back, put on a different lotion then wrapped her up. The princess sipped the warm milk then lay on her stomach and finally fell to sleep.
In the morning, the young Princess was running a fever and her back was worse. The King and Queen came to see her then sent for a doctor- the best in the kingdom. When he arrived, he was puzzled and declared that the Princess must have sat too close to a fire and had burnt her back.
Nanny disagreed with him but what else could it be?
The doctor give some medicines, instructions and left to see the King’s father who had come down with a bad cold.
By that night the Princess felt little better but her back was still bad and she couldn’t lay down on it. As she tried to get some rest, she felt something moving over her shoulder blades.
Ringing for Nanny, the Princess crawled out of bed and made it across her bedroom to a big mirror. She looked at her back but it was wrapped up and she couldn’t see it.
When Nanny arrived, the Princess told her but Nanny thought she was still feverish.
However, when the Princess awoke in the morning, her back felt like someone was cutting into it and she took the bandages off to see.
There on her back, growing out of her shoulder blades were a tiny pair of black wings!
The Princess gasped and called for Nanny and maid.
‘Look at my back!’ the Princess cried to them, ‘I have wings!’
‘Go and get the King and Queen at once!’ Nanny snapped at the maid, who hurried off to do so.
‘They are real!’ the Princess cried and she tried to move them.
‘How did this happened?’ Nanny muttered.
The King and Queen came and when they saw the wings they wondered if their daughter had been cursed by an evil witch. They decided they would have to seek magical help and the Princess would have to stay in her bedroom and no one would be allowed near her.
The Princess wasn’t happy but no one would listen to her.
Over the next few days and nights the wings carried on growing until they were almost as tall as the Princess was. They were very pretty and brightly coloured in reds, oranges and yellows.
Lonely and bored, the Princess learned how to control the wings and when Nanny and maid were not around, the Princess would try to fly!
This took a lot of time but she began to get the hang of the wings.
Then one beautiful, full moon lit night, the princess decided she wanted to go and fly outside. She crept through the castle using many secret passages and servant corridors. Finally, she made it out into the kitchen gardens and without looked back, she hurried to one of the other gardens furthest from the castle.
There she felt the breeze tug on her wings and she knew what to do.
The Princess stepped up onto a stone bench, she fluttered her wings, closed her eyes, concentrated and jumped into the air.
She opened her eyes and looked down, her feet were off the ground!
She flapped the wings and rose higher and higher! Soon she was flying over the gardens then over the castle, over the city and towards the moon.
The Princess felt thrilled, she had gotten her wish to fly!
She yawed and decided it was time to return to bed. The Princess flew back to the castle, landed in a garden and sneaked back to her bedroom. No one could ever know what she had just done!
For the first night in a month the Princess slept well.
When she woke in the morning, her back felt different, lighter. The Princess looked down and saw on either side her butterfly wings! They had fallen off in the night. She was a normal girl again.
The squirrels were stealing nuts I’d put out for birds then burying them around my garden as a winter storage.
Hannah’s family could trace it’s business back to the French monks who had lived in the 12th century monastery in the valley. Today, that holy place was in ruins and made a fine tourist attraction.
The family relayed on that draw for customers to their gardening shop, specialist laid out gardens, wild meadows and small woodlands.
Hannah’s favourite place was the lavender field. There were over twenty kinds of the purple, heady smelling flowers. It had been great-grandma’s job to tend the field and now it was Hannah’s. She knew each plant like an old friend, it was just a shame she could no longer smell.
I hadn’t seen my great aunt Sophia in five years because I had been travelling the world and Sophia only had a landline phone. So, I thought it would be nice to go and spend sometime with her. She was my oldest relative and I loved hearing the stories of her life, family members and past friends.
Great aunt Sophia’s cottage hadn’t changed. There were roses, honeysuckle and jasmine growing up the house towards the thatched roof. There were loads of other flowers and plants in the front garden which reminded me of being in a gardening shop. There was actual a sign with faded words on it declaring Plants for sale on the front gate.
I walked up the path and knocked on the door with the iron knocker. How many times had I ran around this cottage, laughing and chasing butterflies? So many of my summers had been spent out here as my parents, who worked difficult, long hour jobs in London had used great aunt Sophia as a nanny.
‘Sophia? It’s me, Hattie! Are you home?’ I called out.
I tried the door and found it locked.
Dumping my heavy hiking bag, suitcase and duffel bag on the doorstep, I walked around the side of the cottage. The back garden was a huge acre lawn with large trees dotted about to give shady patches and at the sides were long flower beds containing all kinds of bright, sweet smelling blooms, wild flowers and small evergreen plants.
There was no path across the lawn, so I walked on the grass down to the bottom, where half hidden by a weeping willow was a large Victorian glass and iron greenhouse. The door was open and I stuck my head inside to call out, ‘great aunt Sophia? It’s Hattie.’
‘Who?’ a soft, old voice spoke.
I entered the greenhouse, heat wrapped around me, catching my breath and making it harder to breath. Long leaf tropical plants brushed my face and arms, making me feel like I had walked through spiderwebs. Narrow bench tables ran down in rows though here and there, a rickety table or a massive plant pot sat.
Slipping through a gap, I saw a white haired and hunched woman in her late eighties, sitting on a old wooden chair, looking around confused. Sophia was so much older then I had last seen her, there were more wrinkles, her skin was too tanned with sunlight, her eyes looked duller, her hair shorter but she was still great aunt Sophia. She was wearing a pale blue summer dress with a white lacy trim.
‘Your only grandniece, Henrietta. Hattie. Hat. We spoke on the phone this morning, auntie Sophia. Remember?’
Sophia stared at me, taking in my boy short brown hair, sun kissed skin, my too thin but muscular body, the torn jean shorts and white crop top I was wearing.
‘Ah! Hat!’ Sophia cried.
She struggled to take off the thick gardening gloves she had on.
‘Here,’ I said and helped her take them off.
‘I was just repotting these baby cacti,’ she replied.
I looked at the tray she had been working on and saw lots of new cacti in tiny brown plastic pots. There was a mix of different kinds; some looked like little tufts of fluff, others was straight and tall, there were round pin cushions, some had different colour ‘buds’ on them.
Behind the tray, more cacti grew and some were quite big having been in the greenhouse for more then forty years. I realised we were standing in cacti corner and the familiarity of it made me feel right at home.
‘You should have seen some of the cacti I saw in America! They were huge!’ I spoke.
‘Is that where you’ve been, Hat?’ Sophia asked.
I nodded, ‘I went to California, Texas, Arizona, Washington D.C, New York and Louisiana.’
‘All of those?’
‘Yes. I’ve been to other counties too. Canada, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and Italy.’
‘Your parents funded it?’ Sophia asked, knowing it was true.
‘Mostly. I did work in a few places. I taught English.’
Sophia patted my hands, ‘I bet they were glad to get rid of you again.’
I sighed and decided not to get into that argument. It was a part of an old family feud; parents having children and not bring them up themselves; old traditions and rich fathers.
‘It’s too hot in here,’ I said, ‘let’s go in and I’ll make us afternoon tea.’
Sophia agreed and we left the greenhouse for the coolness of the cottage. In the kitchen, I found everything I needed to make a pot of old English tea, sandwiches, and small cakes. I brought everything into the living room which was soft and cosy.
Sophia was dozing in a large armchair and I took the other one. The windows were open and I could hear bees buzzing and smell the flowers outside.
I poured the tea and give Sophia a cup.
‘How are you?’ I asked, ‘have you been trying to go out?
Sophia glanced at the windows, ‘no,’ she replied.
I clutched my saucer and cup, wondering how to carry on this conversation. Great aunt Sophia had agoraphobia. No one knew for how many years she had suffered with it, she had had lots of treatment but nothing worked for long.
Now, it was so easy to blame it on her old age; she struggled walking and standing, she had bouts of confusion and she didn’t have many local family and friends to visit anymore.
‘And why would I want to?’ Sophia picked up, ‘the world is a bad place. I’m safe here and anyway my plants need me.’
I sighed and sipped my tea.
‘You must have seen the badness in your travels. I worried about you. I got all your postcards…’ Sophia trailed off and got up to go to the fireplace where there was a stack of postcards resting against the wall.
‘I saw lots of good and amazing things too. I got photographs to give you,’ I replied, ‘and I’m glad you got my postcards.’
Sophia sit down again, postcards in hand, she shuffled through them, looking at the imagines of all the different places.
‘Do you like them?’ I asked.
‘Yes. Very nice,’ Sophia replied, ‘where are you going to go next?’
‘You’re staying at home?’
‘I’m going to stay here and look after you,’ I said.
Sophia smiled but said, ‘I don’t need looking after, child!’
You do, I thought, instead I replied, ‘I meant help you out and stuff, like I did before.’
‘Right then. Those cacti still need potting. Off you go!’
I rolled my eyes, grabbed a cake and left the cottage for the greenhouse.
Somethings never change but I was happy to be back again.
(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/tale-weaver-232-july-18th-visit/ with thanks).
He had adopted the deer as a baby and since setting her free, she had lived in his backyard.
(Inspired by; https://lindaghill.com/2019/07/17/one-liner-wednesday-hindsight/ with thanks).
The little and large things making my life delicious!
Writing Fiction and Running Miles! That goes together, right?