Thursday, 2 July 2015

RED HOT POKERS SPEARED THE SKY!

I loved our garden as a kid in the Sixties and Seventies. It was quite big and had hedges all the way round so nosey neighbours couldn't really see in. This privacy meant that we could get up to all sorts in it!

Use of the garden began in Spring and peaked in Summer. Only the Action Man Arctic Commando on skis would get me on its icy slopes in Winter.

Activities were divided between children and adults. Only on Sundays did the two generations cross over like Marvel and DC characters warily mixing. The adults were industrious, involving themselves in all manner of solar practicalities: 



.....my Mum would hang the washing out but what she really loved was to pick and plant flowers, water and tend her beds of exotics like red hot pokers, which to me looked just like fiery missiles about to launch; my Dad would mow the lawn and when done read a book in a deckchair and my older brothers would check on their pigeon aviary and coo to Betty the chocolate racer, their pride and joy. That is of course until it sadly burnt down. I'm not sure what happened to Betty and the birds. On other occasions they would hunt me down.


I never really saw my Sisters doing much in the garden except sunbathing and sitting in deckchairs with their kids on a Sunday when the family got together from its various haunts. My Sister called the garden the 'garby' and still does! Oddly, I don't recall my family ever eating in the garden, which is one my favourite activities in Summer now.


Which leaves just Shandy. Shandy was our family dog when I was a kid and I loved that mutt. Her predecessor had been Sandy but I never knew him. Shandy loved the garden too and would often saunter from the Kitchen door up and around the two possible paths and into the garden for a proper sniff around. 

She loved to chase balls and frisbees and like all of us back then spent a good deal of time wrestling on the grass! Shandy was a top wrestler and had me pinned down during many a bout!

The paths and beds of our garden were lined with weird curly Victorian edging, which looked just like barley twists. They were made of clay I think and coloured reddy brown. I've seen them in salvage yards since for quite a penny. These Victorian borders gave the garden a sort of gothic Dickensian feel, as if HG Wells would step out at any minute pondering the thick fog of time travel.

The other features my Mum installed were plastic birds and gnomes. They were scattered liberally throughout the beds and you would often see a realistic heron or a fishing rod peaking over the hydrangeas. They were like another community who lived in the garden, frozen at a happy moment of their lives and skewered into the soil. They were, originally, from my Dad's cash and carry warehouse, a cornucopia stuffed with all manner of plastic goodies, but that's a story for another day.

The lawn was a large grassed rectangle capable of holding a diversity of summer distractions: small football matches, lawn darts, paddling pools, sprinklers, badminton [using the washing line as the net], messing on trikes wearing motorbike helmets and as mentioned, wrestling.


As described recently on the blog my mates and I would re-enact Samurai battles on the lawn. We would pretend we were proud vassals of the Shogun, protecting him from fearless Ronin and peppering them with whistling arrows and shurikens.

We would also play war. Initially this was just medieval with plastic maces, swords, shields and knight's helmets. As we got older we graduated to modern warfare with tanks and rifles, where you counted to ten when you were injured and fifty when shot dead! 

Upturned deckchairs made for great barricades and the paddling pool was a reservoir, which had to be held at all costs! We had plastic US helmets, toy grenades, cap guns, sekidens, toy binoculars, screaming mee mee rifles and when the Johnny Seven came out it was curtains for the enemy! During many battles my small nephews and nieces would arrive and were promptly showered with plastic bullets and hand grenades!

Best of all were the plank stens we made out of shaped wood and gate latches. The bolt action was just like a real rifle and sounded great too! Things got serious when one of the gang brought round real bandages, syringes [no needles I might add], splints and unbelievably some crutches! His Mum was a nurse. We set up a field hospital in a gap in the hedge and put down a sleeping bag for the wounded! We ferried the fallen in wheelbarrows! The only thing missing was a proper stretcher!


More sedate garden pastimes included burying stuff, digging stuff up, building dens, making grass slides, constructing ghost trains, baking spuds in the incinerator, burning crackly leaves, swinging on the swing [how I loved that thing], camping out, garden hopping and last but not least, playing with toys outside. 


I can clearly remember dressing Action Men up in the sunshine with my school pal Vinnie Tracy. I think we both had the German Stormtrooper with those fab little stick grenades.

Its strange to think that 'our' garden is still there even now. I haven't seen it for forty years but no doubt many children have enjoyed its deep magic since my allotted time was over and done. That magic has traveled with me though and whenever I see a launchpad of red hot pokers these days I think of those glorious Sixties and Seventies family summers outside in, yes, 'our' garden.

What garden memories have you got readers?


2 comments:

  1. I now wish I'd lived in your house and played in your garden - for a fortnight's holiday anyway. I use to sit out in my garden on a rug, reading my comics or playing with my Action Man or other toys. I've had five gardens in my time (ten if you count the front ones as well) - I have fond memories of them all. Nicely nostalgic.

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  2. You'd have been more than welcome Kid. You could have helped me in the battle with my Brothers! ha ha. I too loved a simple rug strewn with comics - like Yang, Shang Shi, Tales of Terror, Acrobat, Ka-Zar, Fantastic and Look In - and maybe a packet of Jammie Dodgers too! I only knew one garden up to age of 17. Since then it's been countless greens ever since until my own family settled in Yorkshire, where we have quite a nice one. Nothing compares to that childhood space though!

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