Friday, 23 March 2012

Bitten Off ...

I think my mother considered she married well.

The ninth in a late Victorian / Edwardian family of ten children to a policeman, she more or less had to bring herself up.  Her mother died when she was eight and all the older sisters were much too bored by then with their small siblings to care how she coped.

She met my father - a bright, only child - when she was in her teens and I think he offered her the space and aspiring middle-classness she needed to move away from her big extended family.

When I was a toddler my parents moved to a bungalow in Bookham on the edge of the North Downs.  Through the whole of my life, my mother made much of the fact that the bungalow came with "a third of an acre" - so different to the tightly packed terraced houses of Beckenham where she grew up, with their small gardens, outside toilet and alleyway along the back, .

Something of that desire for that space of "a third of an acre" has rubbed off on me.  No doubt she would be thrilled to know that her daughter is now living in a house surrounded by five acres.

But then I also know the family folklore that the third of an acre was too much for Dad, working full-time, singing in the choir, attending council meetings and squeezing gardening into late evenings and long weekends. He had bitten off more than he could chew and the garden became a burden, not a pleasure. So they moved - to my mother's chagrin - to a smaller garden.

At this time of the year, everywhere I look around the five acres there is work to be done and Nature is running ahead of me laughing.  My father is standing at my shoulder and I know exactly how he felt.


  1. It's like the Forth Bridge...and now I need help to keep things under control.
    But that makes me remember my father who also always needed space around him.
    When he did not have the time, (or, in the case of indoor DIY) the inclination, the cry would go up

    'Get a man in...'

  2. That brought back memories of living 40yrs ago in Bookham (was it Little or Great?) and walking the dog on the Common.
    As a rotten gardener, I was always thinking that a flat with a windowbox would be my idea of heaven - and I wasn't too sure of the windowbox. Now we have the garden/dog exercise area and cutting the grass and weeding are just starting for 2012. Hey Ho!

  3. A lovely post, Sue, and I can see just why the third of an acre mattered so much to your mother.

    My mother would have been in seventh heaven with more than her two patches of garden (less than an eighth of an acre all told) as she was a born gardener and spent every spare minute outside. My husband is one who likes space around him and we have it in Wales, though it's mainly grass and trees. In France we have about 1600m2 and it's plenty as I'm the gardener in our marriage.....

  4. Fly you are so right about the Forth Bridge! I love gardening, but get carried away with new schemes and then struggle to finish them. Indeed, oh for a "man who can"!

  5. Hi Lesley, it was Great. :)
    We must have been there late 40s/ early 50s and I was still very young when we moved, so I've only my mother's memories. :)
    I had a terrace alongside my flat in Brazil with big planters filled with azaleas and poinsettias. I could manage that!

  6. Hello Perpetua, Thank you for your kind words. I envy your mother! Sometimes I am entirely content gardening but then get very frustrated with my lack of progress with all my "grand schemes".