It was a square house, shaped like a child’s drawing – a door at the bottom in the centre, two windows either side and symmetrical windows above; triangular roof on top. It sat apart, alone, surrounded by the tall, traditional sandstone buildings of Sheffield, our home being more squat in nature; constructed of 1970’s brick.
Open the scrolled-iron gate, down the dark, overgrown path, and open the oak front door, with small glass panels at the top. Through the hallway, to the kitchen; left to the back door and out into the light. The garden conjures memories of adventures, terrors; industry and leisure. Enclosed within a high red-brick wall, on the right hand side sat a large ancient, unemployed greenhouse where I played.
It was also where the tortoises lived. In that glass domain they bred and produced two milky, translucent eggs, which, despite the zoo’s advice, never hatched. Ultimately, our friends perished; they escaped and were therefore unable to safely hibernate over winter. We found their empty shells in the undergrowth next summer. I doubtfully believed the story, that they might have grown new, better armour. Part of me still hopes that the tale was true, and that they thrive to this day, in the shade of the peonies, close to the compost heap in the corner.
That garden was where my brother and I were taught how to make arrows from willow branches, without the censure of what (who) not to shoot at. I became the anguished quarry of my younger brother and his fellow bandit; two mischievous 10-year olds, with an endless source of ammunition. Round and round the paths they pursued me, with pitiless mirth. Ambushed from behind the garage. Caught unawares whilst musing; rude interruptions from shooting missiles. They laugh about it still.
At the bottom of the garden growing right up against that big brick wall was an old ash tree. Most of the tree grew vertically, branches reaching upwards, but one bough ran horizontally, far enough out to grant me a throne.
I loved getting into the centre of that tree. My back to the trunk, feet flat on the bricks, I would shimmy my way up to the height of the wall, then in one move, turn, feet atop the crumbly sand-cement, arms outstretched to encircle the smooth, greening trunk. A big push forwards and I was on the flat bough. Then carefully, each foot immediately in front of the other, holding higher branches for balance, out to where offshoots turned upward, offering me my seat. From this castle, I looked over adjoining gardens, heard conversations, lawn mowers, arguments and laughter while birds swooped in and out of each enclosure. For hours, I would perch, even into the dusky gloom, peering to make out the stealth of neighbourhood cats, stalking in the inky shadows.
Eventually, someone would notice I wasn’t inside. Clambering down I’d reposition indoors, to my window sill, gazing over the same parallel lines of grey-slate roof tiles. In either location I carried notebook and pencil; I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Little of those scribbles remain, but vivid memories are unfaded.
Many of us write as part of our living: reports, forms, articles for journals (in academia), assignments for qualifications, more reports, memos, emails…. the PhD was 92,000 words. I have always loved the writing process.
It didn’t occur to me to pick up writing for pleasure again. The trekking blog was for family, but it offered me moments of reflection not otherwise afforded in the daily dash though life. It gave me wonderful feedback completely unanticipated. It gave me a little more confidence, to let my fingers represent my brainwaves; thinking across the keyboard.
So this is fair warning. there have been some great adventures, I’ll pen these and then there are more anticipated for the year to come. Feel free to join me; for real with a pair of walking boots, or from the screen if that’s more your fancy.
I look forward to seeing you soon,