Sunday Scribblings. Town and Country
‘Town’ is a relative term, it seems. I’ve always thought of myself as not just a townie, but a “city-girl”, being reared in Limerick, at the mouth of the Shannon (see last Poetry Thursday’s entry). And yet, and yet, I’ve never lived anywhere that wasn’t within a 5-minute walk of countryside. Sounds pretty country to me. What it probably is, is my suburban self showing herself. So, on the edge of the town, with streetlights and proper footpaths, a convenience store within a short walk, but within a short walk in the other direction, there have always been the treasures of the countryside.
Confession: Not since childhood have I taken regular advantage of this. It’s a rare day that I come out on foot from my house, with my hands swinging, and turn right when I leave the estate, up the Thorn Road, rather than left on the walk to the shop or the town. If I did head away from town, I’d be skirting past the next housing estate, ignoring the bungalows built at one side of the road, and letting my attention be drawn instead into the hedgerows, where right now the May-blossom is giving the last of this years heady scent, falling among the brambles, allowing the trees to ready themselves for the autumn abundance of haws. If I kept walking, up, up the hill, past the curious cows and the rutted and pitted paths, I’d come to where, at the hill’s crest, I can look over the river. Depending on the timing, it will either be an expanse of mud with a single silver trickle running through its centre, or a wide and calm stretch of dove-grey silk, rippled with the breezes that continually blow along its shores. I could keep going, follow the loop of the road, that will eventually bring me onto the main road, with more and more houses crowding around, until I come back to where I live, back to the street-lights and the children playing on the small patch of green not far from my own front-door.
The country of childhood, I’ve described before. The back-field that was our summer territory, the place of sanctuary and magic; the enfoldment of aunties and my grandmother. There was another place in my childhood – a field that I found, on my own. I considered it to be my own private territory, and there, there was treasure. There, I found riches. I have no recollection of why I’d headed Singland direction rather than to the back-field that day, but I think I’d caught a glimpse on a group foray into this new area, and decided to return alone to check it out a day or two later. How old was I? 8? 10? Perhaps somewhere between the two. Life was as free then as we could not imagine now. I didn’t have to report to anyone what my movements were. It didn’t occur to me to let anyone know where I was going, but off I went, up through Parke’s estate and the new building sites, through the railway gates, and over to the other side, down almost to the stream we used to fish for pinkies in, and then through the gap in the hedge to my goal. I’d seen something pink there. Something pink and orange and peachy. Something high in the hedge between this field and the next. Through the long grass I waded, towards my goal.
It was there. Just as I’d thought. I was Sir Joseph Banks. I was Fuchs. I was the intrepid explorer that discovered exotic species and brought them back to civilization. I reached and stretched, finally managing to pull a long vine towards me, finally securing a bunch of the blossoms, finally succeeding in pushing my face in among those blooms and inhaling a sweetness I’d never before encountered. I grabbed and gathered, and returned home happy, happy, happy, with my armload of honeysuckle. I had gone to the country and found something to rival cowslips, to rival briar-rose. I had found the most beautiful flower ever to grace a hedge. I had discovered beauty. I was queen of the entire country.
Find more wanderings in Town and Country at Sunday Scribblings HERE