Fairies in the Garden

My parents have been married for sixty years this Christmas. Sixty years! How the world has changed since they first set foot in the home where my four siblings and myself grew up. Moseley Villa was an old rambling house in Stoke on Trent, in a street where the rich industrialists lived, away from the smoke and grime of the Pot Banks in the Victorian era.
Along with ‘The Pink Room’ and ‘The Blue Room’ and many bedrooms, it had a large cellar where we ‘wintered’ cooking apples picked from our apple orchard, a scary attic room which I was assured was haunted by a resident mop-capped ghost and a box room, where all sorts of treasures hid. Frost coated the inside of our windows in beautiful swirling patterns in winter and we used to put our school clothes inside our beds to warm up- often getting dressed under the covers, morphing from a sleepy child to a smart school girl with porridge on her mind.
Outside in our back garden chickens and rabbits roamed freely around the orchard, eating the wild strawberries and lettuces we tried to grow, and we each had a small garden to tend. My garden grew harebells and bluebells and I remember playing ‘fairies’ for hours with imaginary fairies that lived under the flowers, placing tiny strawberries on a broken piece of Rich Tea biscuit, convincing myself that they would eat the food when I’d gone.
We weren’t well off as my dad left ‘The Mitch’ (Michelin Tyres still have their head office in Stoke) to retrain as a teacher, a salary that would hardly cover five growing children’s needs – I have a vivid image in my mind of my mum sitting by the sewing machine; ‘running up’ new skirts, dresses and turning down trousers; no shop bought clothes for us!
We lived off home made meat pies and the infamous Potteries ‘lobby,’ thin stew made up of whatever vegetables were available and maybe a mutton bone to flavour it. Pudding was invariably, a baked apple, egg custard baked in the Rayburn or jam roly-poly. I guess in those days it was the way to fill your children’s bellies; comfort food that would stretch a long way. My mum ate tripe, brawn and pigs trotters and my dad was partial to a conger eel steak, but we turned our noses up at such things and don’t think to this day that I’ve ever tried any of them.
Few people in our street had a telephone or a fridge let alone a car and it was a day to remember when dad turned into our road driving a Citroen DS with a hydraulic suspension, and leopard skin seat covers that scratched your legs like you wouldn’t believe. We were very proud children that day. (The fact that it was French made it much more glamorous, too.)
Dad took us to Ironbridge to show us the spectacular bridge, to Shrewsbury to look at the river Severn in hope of seeing the Severn Bore and to Chester to walk the city walls (he was a teacher, after all) but really, all we wanted to do was shop in Chelsea Girl or C and A, but I treasure those memories now.
I went to look at our old house last year and was sad to see the back garden and orchard is now a small collection of flats with a variety of coloured curtains at the windows and push bikes and prams haphazardly scattered. Gone were the apple trees and the chicken coop and there was no sign of my well-tended patch of magic. I do hope someone else is now looking after the fairies and have discovered that it’s only the tiny, wild strawberries they like to eat – they never bothered with the Rich Tea biscuits!


8 thoughts on “Fairies in the Garden

  1. Aw, Jackie, what a lovely piece of writing! I could really see that house in my mind’s eye. What a brilliant place to grow up. And how kind of you to feed the fairies. Very wise. Now that you’ve nudged their memories I’m sure they’ll get to work repaying the favour. Look out for the fairy dust…x

  2. I love any stories about fairies, really enjoyed this one in particular. I smiled when I read about you putting school clothes on under the covers…I used to get dressed for school in our minuscule airing cupboard!!
    Helen R 🙂

  3. What a lovely picture you paint, Jackie. I could vividly imagine you as a young child with your fairy food, surrounded by wild flowers. Gorgeous. Oh those easier innocent days of our youth before this techology-driven world. Good times
    Jessica xx

  4. Thanks for such a beautiful account, Jackie. That house and garden will surely feature in one of your books if it hasn’t already. You paint such a vivid picture. Lovely.

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