Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Gardener Revisits His Roots

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Gardener Revisits His Roots

Article excerpt

My whole life passed before me in a flash....

Well, not my whole life.

And not exactly in a flash.

The traffic these days surges endlessly through the Yorkshire town of Bingley and over Cottingley Bridge on its way to Bradford. I suspect the river - the Aire - flows faster. I was making slow-stop progress.

I was already a few minutes late reaching Terry Marshall's place, but was still glad to catch unhurried glimpses of the High Street that had been part of my daily life in the 1940s and early '50s. I have hardly revisited my birthplace since my family and I moved south, and not at all in the last 20 years. I owed it a visit. And I had a particular reason.

It was strangely the same, though obviously changed.

Half-familiar. Yes, there on the right was the down-curving street past the kindergarten I shyly attended - where was it now? - and on to the gasworks by the river, where my brother and I later staged rowing races in hired skiffs. I would be clutching my copy of The Eagle comic book, desperate to follow Dan Dare's latest escapade.

The two cinemas, the Myrtle and Hippodrome, are both gone. And Mr. Percy's sweet shop.

There's Park Road, yes, up to our house. Oh, and the side-street to the Public Baths in whose shivery waters I failed to learn to swim.

The art shop? Long gone, of course. Its owner gave me a first kindly critique of my paintings....

Ah! So the grammar school is still there, and now, yes, there are the allotments as I remember them, lying low. They're full of green- growing, even this late, and huts, greenhouses, ancient apple trees, rows of Brussels sprouts and leeks, seedy sunflower heads and new- dug earth among weed-patches, with leafless lines of raspberry canes sticking up in stiff curves.

It was this I had come to see. I had never been inside them before. But I am absolutely certain that these large old plots are the primary reason I wanted to have a plot myself today - the reason allotments are in my bones. …

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