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Gardens and their Secrets


I remember when growing up in Sladedale Road I was very keen indeed on gardening. I was allowed to look after one side of our back garden.
I used to order and buy a gardening magazine out of my very meager amount of pocket money. Being so very keen and green fingered I loved learning about plants and also buying them, planting them in the soil and watching them grow. It was an immense buzz for me.

I got a paper round and one of my customers was an elderly lady by the name of Miss H. She lived on Chestnut Rise in a huge old Victorian house. She let the top half to a young working couple. Miss H. was bed-ridden and paralyzed from the neck down and was unable to walk or even use her hands and arms.
When I scored this paper round, from a friend, I inherited Miss H. along with the paper round. I didn't mind at all.

The routine was that I delivered her daily evening paper and made her a cup of tea every day, which she drank through a bent glass straw from the cup placed on a bedside cabinet that she lent over and drank from. I would drop her paper in to her as she lay in her bed, in the front room. I'd then go up the passage to make her cuppa in the scullery. Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, I noticed that she had a large back garden and it was very overgrown. I asked her if it was OK for me to dig it over and make it into a garden and she agreed to let me. I carried my dad's gardening tools around each day and got stuck into it. It had loads of brick rubble, broken glass, tangled wire and other rubbish buried amongst the huge deep-rooted weeds and convolvulus grass. But, with much enthusiasm and the very pleasing knowledge that I had ALL this garden, all just for me to use, I soon had it all dug over, weeded, raked and nice and level, ready for planting. I planted all kinds of vegetables and flowers. I also learnt how to grow plants for the first time, such as celery; and how to put brown paper around it as it grew. How to grow lettuces with good firm hearts, using an elastic band round the leaves. How to mold up the soil round the spuds; make twig trestles to train the peas; and strung up string for the beans to wind around.
I read about why to 'dead head' plants and so much more. I was in my element and loved it so much.

As I said, it was my job was to deliver her paper. I would enter her unlocked, very large, front door and then enter into her front room, where she lay in a large bed. Now the strange thing is that, quite often, as I entered her room with her cuppa, she would quickly put her hands under the bedclothes, rustling quite loudly the open newspaper on her bed. She always looked guilty but I never ever said any thing and made out I saw nothing. Being a young kid I was a bit put off by seeing this as it gave me the creeps. And this would happen quite often.
One day, I came to her house, much earlier than my usual time, probably to do some gardening. I entered into the passage as usual and I looked up at a figure standing on the stair landing. It was Miss H., standing there in her nightdress! As our eyes met she let out a scream and I felt my hair stand on end with the sudden sight and sound of her being there.

I quickly walked back outside and went away. After that incident, whenever I delivered her paper and made her cup of tea, I would deliberately make some noise in advance, to let her know I was there.
Neither her nor me ever mentioned anything about that episode.
Not so long after that our family moved away from Plumstead and I had to leave my lovely garden that I loved so much.

I found out much later that she finally got caught out as a fraud, by the Home Help people; I felt very sad for her, but as to what happened to her after that, I don't know.

I often thought about my lovely garden, being reclaimed by the weeds, my plants gone to seed and choked by the growing army of weeds. We had only a small back yard where we moved to in East London and it was mostly covered over in concrete. Amongst the many things that I lost because of that sad move from Plumstead was my deep love of gardening.

Remembering the common things of life
Colin Weightman



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