That tuck-shop and residence opposite the school gate has not changed its shape in sixty years. The weatherboards and the paint of what is left of it are still as they were when the Thomson widow ran it. Of course it had to all come back in a gush of memory. Nowhere else in recent years have I seen the small sunflower stretching in glory to the face of being. Only here in the weedy ground have I seen the remnants of old time proliferation of sunfire blaze. Everywhere, sunflowers bright like the burst of color of coreopsis in bloom along the north shore line.
Long ago, before Van Gogh made the big ones commonplace, we as small children would stare up to the swaying sol six feet above and with a face as big as a soup plate – bending over the fences to radiate a joy to small children in the shadows of the lanes. Sunflower and chokos over bore the tattered fences – the sunflowers were gay – we got sick of chokoes and chops. The little sunflower plants had leaves like the feel of a cat’s tongue, raspy on the skin the loving tactile semblance of a sedge tooth file.
There used to be the depths of night shaped into gramophone horns adorning the more neglected lanes. With our bited dogs we passed the convolvulus bells with siren tendrils clutching at our throats. In the twilight, the vibrant blue weeds of our back yards. I never remember ever seeing a frangipani or hibiscus or any other modern exotica. There were scents of the evening – perhaps we were too young to notice the small white jasmines or the occasional tuberoses. Red geraniums, yes everywhere in little window boxes – not children’s flowers at all – very adult.
Arum lilies and cannas yes (mostly around the semi detached) -seemed to lend a glory to the necessities of human functions.
Who was not enabled on the way back from the out-house by the soft lick of the lily leaves and a fairy touch brush across the face of the asparagus fern?
My Grandmother had grape vines which bore somewhat edible fruit. She had too, a sturdy clump of verbena shrub. Somehow this seemed to go along with her personality extremely well.
On Sunday afternoons after being let out of Sunday School we would aimlessly roam around the cabbage patch (fenced off of course) past the manure bin through the carriage paint shops (as those sheds were called) all mucky & soiled. A good fistful of verbena leaves crushed up in smelly hands. How those verbena leaves reminded me of Grandma.
Just like carraway seed cake. You’d have to have been born in 1860 to have acquired a taste for that. Sunday afternoon tea was a bloody trial. Carraway seed cake and Sao biscuits, or Thin Captain. Perhaps we were given lemonade – if we had been, the occasions have left no impact on my junior memories.
Only one other plant ever impressed me. Grandpapa’s glossy tree on the 3’ x 4’ lawn in front of “Trelawny”. Grandpapa used to sit on the gas bar during the dusk and note the comings and goings of the locals. Everyone was on foot just like in a communist city. This tree, or shrub, was not more than three times taller than I. Looking from underneath its leaves were dull and undistinguished but from the verandah they were miraculously transformed bright green and glossy as a cerebric glaze. It was a very formal affair & impressive but never to the day has it had a name or a signature of being. Perhaps it is still there – I should look again.