About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Leaving home

Emptying the parental home is a tough job. While my sister and her husband managed to pack up almost all the goods and chattels in a few days of Herculean effort, it seems to have taken me the entire summer to re-home the last few pieces of furniture. 

I'm quite pleased, though, that out of all the things in the house, only one settee too old to comply with current fire regulations and one elderly bed had to be broken up and taken to the tip.

(The wood will be recycled into a composting bin.)

My parents bought the house in 1965, when I was two and a half years old. I can remember the six months it was in their possession before we moved in quite clearly, as my sister and I were taken over there often while they worked in the garden. 

There's very little of the house from that time that remains unchanged. Two or three original windows ... 

... the tiles in the porch ...

... and the original bathroom tiles, here with later tiles below them and the early 60s lemon bathroom suite that was my mother's pride and joy. 

I remember my father sticking up the two diamond-shaped plastic hooks. My mother, in her ceaseless quest for cleanliness, wanted my sister and I to have a flannel each, which we were to hang on our own hook after every ablution. 

Needless to say, that never happened. 

Also, sitting on the 'dirty clothes bin' in the corner with my legs stretched out and my feet up on the airing cupboard door, reciting my 3 times table while my mother pushed back my cuticles with the rounded end of a nail file. (Ouch.) We hadn't been taught our 4 times table yet but I got as far as 4 x 4 by myself and felt very proud.

Here's something I don't remember. Under a piece of carpet in the cupboard under the stairs a piece of lino that is completely unfamiliar, and presumably an always hidden remnant from the house's pre-Harvey life. 

And something I'd completely forgotten ... through a gap in the late 60s, built-in Sindy furniture, the original wallpaper in my parents' bedroom, which provokes a jolt of memory. 

My boys, going on a final prowl with me, are on the look-out for forgotten treasure. This is as close as they will get. 

The hardest thing to say goodbye to, for me, are the trees. It doesn't help that the cooking apple tree, the survivor of two that flanked the middle section of the garden, is growing forget-me-nots at its roots.

Dear tree, who never provided the handholds and footholds necessary for me to climb it.

And the tree I grew from pips taken from my grandmother's garden in Bishopston after her death, the twin of which Dru transported from the garden of my previous house when we moved to our current home.  

And the tree my eldest grew from seed to achieve some Brownie badge or other.

I will always see you

The fruit on the third tree is still far too small, but I take a couple of apples from each of the other two trees to see if I can get some seedlings growing. 

My father's long neglected shed at the always neglected top of the garden provokes a smile. 

Quick, Mum, quick, there's a weed on the lawn!
Back in the house the clank of the front door bolts and the rattle of the security chain, as the last piece of furniture leaves the house to be upcycled by a friend of a friend in Portishead and my dead father locks up for the night. 

A funny thing happens as I walk through the empty house. I keep expecting to see brown hessian wallpaper on one wall of the front room, and the burnt orange carpet that was another source of great satisfaction for my mother, but they are long gone. 
Or the small, dark kitchen with its dark blue wallpaper, before my Uncle Gilbert knocked through the larder, coal house and porch to make a single-skinned 'extension', but there's just a glimpse behind the late 70s pine panelling.

And after the 1930s lilac floral wallpaper and the 1960s horsey wallpaper and the early 70s pastel floral wallpaper, a glimpse of my bedroom in its true colours, before my parents covered it with blown wallpaper and painted it Bluebell White from the Dulux range, following my relocation to Lancaster in 1980. 

Blue blue electric blue ... 

I must have had a premonition they were going to do that because here's what must be one of the first ever, pre-digital selfies, of me the summer before I left, committing a glimpse of its glory to the historical record.  

The last two things to leave are my father's razor blade that he always left on top of the electric shaving point he never used ... 

... and one forlorn peg left on the washing line. 

The names in concrete will stay until the new owners block pave the drive ...

... but it's all there in my head, from beginning to end. 


  1. That was such a beautifully evocative piece of writing - it's almost as if I lived thre, too, when you did xx

  2. This is so beautiful. I hope your pips lead to another apple tree xxx

    1. I hope so too, but suspect I won't be around long enough to climb it!