Tuesday, 1 February 2022
A Magical place in my childhood
My grandmother Clara Gladwin (Chapman) with an Icelandic visitor, outside The Thatch in North Thoresby, Lincolnshire, sometime in the 1960's.
Happy New Year everyone, and for all those who recently contributed, a big thank you for supporting our unique book.
So, the first thing I decided was that I wanted to write something about a place that meant a lot to me as a child; my grandparent’s thatched cottage, (the only one in the village then) on Ludborough Road, North Thoresby. Lincolnshire – and not far from Grimsby where I was born. It occurred to me that my grandparent’s cottage had always been a magical place for me as a child and one that I was always happy to return to. There was, I remembered, a certain smell about it, which even now I can’t place, but can easily conjure. I further remembered seeing my grandma working in the kitchen, (always in a housecoat and quite likely making jam, because hers was renowned in the area). Or maybe she was making her famous Lincolnshire recipe for Pig’s Fry, which I would sometimes get to eat with my dad, on his regular visits there on a Thursday lunchtime. The garden was my grandpa’s domain, and he seemed never happier than when he was amongst his beloved roses, raspberries and sweet peas.
And I especially wrote about how much I enjoyed staying with them two New Year’s eves out of three, of how I would remember waking up to the radio which was usually announcing the new years honours list. Grandpa would bring me a cup of tea, and on a couple of occasions, collections of plays as gifts. I still have the tiny eight volume complete works of Shakespeare that he gave me one year. The only sad thing about waking up on those magical New Year’s days – where once or twice there was even snow on the ground – was that eventually my dad had to come and take me home. Never mind! There’s always next year.
And in the front room celebrating her 90th birthday in 1986.
While thinking about all this, I suddenly realised that this experience of mine was exactly what I wanted ‘Land in Mind’ to be about. Within those memories of The Thatch, were the very things which mattered to me and this book; Land, Mind, Memory, Childhood, and the idea of those places of memory being a sanctuary that we can all hold dear and recall when we most need it.
Let’s try a quick experiment. Take just a few minutes to think of a place you loved to be when you were a child. Think of the people who were there and your relationship with them. Think of the land itself and its quality. Was it a place of wood and forest, or one of stream and river, sea, or mountain? Was there a special quality about the air, or a smell that you remember? Was there anything you could particularly feel and if so was that something soft or hard, flimsy or iron-cold? Can you remember any of the happy things that happened in that setting and try to fill in the details? Was there a coal fire, or was it artificial heating, gas or electricity? Was the bathroom cold, or the kitchen pokey? Perhaps there was only an outside toilet, a tin bath on the wall if you were lucky, and a sink if you weren’t. I’d hope that if you do this it becomes a little like painting by numbers, (which, because I loved doing it as a child, immediately sets off another series of thoughts. As the exercise develops, more of the wonderful colour and feel of the memory begins to re-establish itself, until you could almost be in it. Or perhaps you are!
Whether you’ve now managed to spend some time thinking about this, or simply enjoying reading the exercise, I want you to do two more things.
First find a photo, photos or equivalent that remind you of a place and memory and really look at it. Is it an immediate window into your past, or has your memory already bypassed it into something else? Secondly, and if you can, find a physical object that does the same thing. Mine would be a small piece of amethyst which I bought when my parents, sister and I visited the Dachstein mountains in Austria. As I hold and look at, it I will perhaps automatically connect it with the town of Hallstadt whose St Michael’s Church possesses a remarkable Beinhaus, where many bones were kept after the churchyard became full. Many of the skulls are painted and I’ll remember that odd sense of unease and artistry which the 10-year-old me couldn’t quite put his finger on.
In turn this stream of memory will lead onwards to other artefacts I associate with those holidays in Austria and Germany, to the picture of me with the Tyrolean hat on that I bought in Unken, or my walking stick with all the badges on it from all the places we visited. I will be sitting in that restaurant where I was presented with a whole half chicken, and you should see the look on my face.
Or I will be sitting there as dad snaps me, with my brown and white striped t-shirt and brown shorts blowing the horn I bought or at Lake Constance taking my first photograph slightly off-centre, much to the amusement of a passing stranger.
All this from a single object. Now it’s your turn!
Finally, as a treat for Imbolc, the season of snowdrops, here is the nearly full zoom get together of 'Land in Winter', with contributions from John Matthews, Jacqueline Harris and Marjan Wouda, Elizabeth Garner, Meltem Arikan, Jane Lovell, in absentia Brian Sibley, Hugh Lupton and Neil Philip, and a special tribute to our dear friend Kit Berry, who our book is dedicated from Kelly McKain. I should explain that at one stage there were quite a few more people, but we were unfortunately zoom bombed at the start and had to be highly selective in who we allowed back in. Many thanks to my co-host Jacqueline Harris, for holding it all together so well. Unfortunately two enjoyable contributions were cut off in the hiatus, but thanks to Kath Langrish and Caitlin Matthews for making them.
Do please tell your friends, neighbours and colleagues about ‘Land in Mind and encourage them to help make it happen. Here there is also a link to our Land in Mind facebook page, where you can meet others and talk about Land, Mind, childhood, and memory. I’m encouraging people to share some of their memories, and you might enjoy doing that too. Or feel free to leave a message under the comments or contact me direct on email@example.com.
Thank you, all of you.
Facebook page links
And the companion site where you can find stories, poems and interviews of feeling and being.
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