|It is spring or rather spring has sprung. First hint was the crocus’ nosing their way out of the earth, and then back doors began to open as spider webs were dusted away.
Bill has missed the spring by a couple of months. Winter took him, the last time we spoke he told me he had been ill – a first for him. Bill was one of the those people who are never sick – until they are sick, then promptly die. Despite the sadness of his death, he enjoyed 83 years of near perfect health.
Bill was gatekeeper to my secret garden, a stretch of green hidden behind a red brick mansion block. I love my central London garden. Despite being a communal space, it is nonetheless a peaceful refuge. Best of all it is a sunspot from early in the morning until late in the afternoon when it disappears over the rooftop to warm the front of the building.
The view from my kitchen window is an oasis of fir, fig and palm trees with lush bamboo beneath and a gap due to the death of a rose bush. It is a chosen spot for the garden’s children who regard it as a treasure island, hideout or safe ‘tag-free’ zone.
I have seen fairies run free in this garden, foxes on nocturnal hunts, witches and mangled cats. I have seen a two foot high superman, a spider-man, even Bob the Builder and before you ask, ‘yes, – he can’.
For the first time this year, the lawn has been mown and I am high from the smell of shorn grass. Budding blossoms, lilac, purple pansies and a few daffodils confirm that winter retreats. For the next six months most back doors will be left slightly ajar and the garden will become an extension of our homes and lives.
Passing summers have seen many bottles corked, caps twisted and wine glasses raised. There has been laughter, howls, shrieks, muffled conversations, ‘I don’t believe it,’ whispers and on occasion ‘words’ exchanged with neighbours.
The children of the garden rule supreme. My son and the son’s of my immediate next-door neighbours run, hide, chase, and seek. They play out wars; their ammunition haphazard; sticks, earth, water squirts from pistols, or splat from burst balloons, nerf gun pellets, arrows and mere sound effects.
Our boys have set up camp and slept beneath the stars. They have fallen out, fallen in, chased each other, chased the garden’s girls sparking love stories with singsong chants of K.I.S.S.I.N.G, (first comes love…).
There have been whoops, hollers, tree falls, knees grazed, gashes, punches thrown, ankles twisted, tears spilt, denouncements exclaimed, ‘You are not my friend!’, ‘You are not the boss of me!’.
A certain neighbour plays the role of Oscar Wilde’s Selfish Giant. The patch of grass in front of her back door remains a stasis of green perfection.
Bill would shout in passing, ‘Hey Babe’
He would stand by the back black gates, and talk to all that crossed his path -
The archetypical neighbourhood watch
He was always there.
If you were passing and had the time of day
Bill had the time of day
If he were not by the gates, you would find him in his shed
With the CC TV footage.
All the hallways on view.
He would invite you in
Show you pictures of his passions and life.
Photos of him as a young man in the SAS, his friends, family, his holidays to Greece and his drinks cabinet
He loved that drinks cabinet.
Always, the little things are missed
Small kindnesses, smiles given that the break the dull sky line
Introducing blue, creating warmth.
Spring is upon us
Soon I will take my morning coffee in the garden.
back to confessions…