Sunday, June 10, 2007

Last night, alone on the allotment planting out tomatoes and lettuces, watering and weeding, tasting the first raspberries of the year that always catapault me back to childhood - I have no control over that link whatsoever - I drank a can of lager and listened to magpies. A man walking along the top road said hello and did I know of any interesting sheds? Occasionally, from behind the bank of brambles that shield my patch from the cars, I caught bits of mobile conversation, girls arranging where to meet, discussing types of make-up and who else would be at the party.

My two children were both at parties and now, after years of intense mothering, I'm in another phase where these patches of free time are delivered to me. They feel so precious, I don't like to waste them. What does that mean, to waste time? I want to savour them and put them to some use, to match what I do in this time to how important and special it is. Because it represents the transition they are going through from child to adult. A transition that is at a much earlier stage for my daughter, but my son, 15 this week, is immersed in it.

It takes some imagination to cast back so far to that time. I can summon up moments, feelings and atmospheres. The places are easy, they're imprinted, aren't they, on us, those landscapes of childhood and adolescence? I can stand myself in certain spots, the only time travel that's feasible right now, and maybe something happens in my brain to take me back to those moments...

There was the long walk from the Frensham Road to the kennels where I worked. The bus dropped me at the end but then I had to find my way to where I worked so early in the mornings that in winter it was dark. The pond was to my right and to my left were woods. I can't remember if I ran, possibly I did because I do remember the fear and the feeling that I had no choice but to make for work - behind me was the road and more stretches of common leading over the hill to the other pond.

I can remember, too, the phone box on the recreation ground and the swings where I sat with friends. The smell of the horses at Clive's stables and saddle soap in the tack room.

But because it's summer, perhaps my strongest memories right now are walking along the stream, cow parsley almost as tall as me, towards the main road for the 19 bus into town, in a purple crepe skirt and stripey shirt. On the other side of the stream there were some guys cutting the grass. John Mayall's Turning Point was in my head as I walked.

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