My Auntie Mary and Uncle Arthur were simple country folk; he worked in the same family furniture shop his entire life whilst giving up his spare time to be a special constable. They had married young but a stroke meant that my beloved aunt would never have the children she yearned for. Her generous heart overflowing with love was instead lavished on my sister and myself along with a constant stream of cats. Who else would always have the time to soothe away a cut knee or understand a child’s desire for the latest must-have toy.
As a youngster, I used to race the length of the lane past the old dairy and through the gate of their backyard where the welcoming fragrances of Dianthus, sweet peas, old English roses and creosote welcomed me after a school day. My Uncle’s runner beans were trained along a row of canes meticulously tied up in a row in military precision alongside rows of carrots and new potatoes. Fruit bushes also lined the wall and butterflies flitted amongst the flowers in his sunny cottage garden.
Their lavatory or “privvie” as my aunt referred to it, was situated outside next to the garden shed and there was no fitted kitchen with appliances such as washing machines and fridge freezers. All her cooking was done on a scrubbed pine table which rested against the old slab stone sink and the food was kept in an old scullery. Many a winter’s evening I would sneak out to the toilet hand in hand with my sister frightened that some unimaginable creature or possibly spider would launch itself at us in the twilight. For some reason food never tasted as good as when my Auntie Mary cooked although my favourite meal was Sunday high tea in their dining room, when my uncle, after sharpening the bread knife, ceremoniously sliced the freshly baked bread and the table would be laid out with homemade preserves, butter and cakes all in cut glass dishes. My uncle once confided in me that the secret to making the very best tea, along with good old-fashioned tea leaves was half a spoonful of sugar added to the warmed pot before letting it brew.
Of course, I didn’t know it at the time but these days were the stuff made of fairy tales and as a child I never truly appreciated the generosity of these kind folk but when I often think of them now I realise how very fortunate we were to have them. The smell of creosote and Dianthus will even now transport me back to those halcyon summer days full of picnics and Sunday teas. Sadly, they are long gone now but I hope they knew what a blessing they were to a young child.
Love the people God gave you, because he will need them back one day