I have often talked here of my grandparents house and my memories of it. My Dad’s parents lived close to the mountain, but the house I knew was never home to my Dad or his brothers and sisters. Home to them is the house they were born in, higher up, a little stone house by a river, a great tree for climbing. This was a wonderland for children, far from the road, no road. A prettier place that now sleeps in the forest, ever more, ever closer to the forest floor.
Dad and I went to see it on Sunday. So here we go in…
Follow the path. Leave it.
Fuchsias. First sign of Nanny…
She planted the mountain with them…
‘Come on Jane,’ he says, while his chivalrous self. Lays a coat on a rusty wire, forces it down, flattens, lays waste to and points out the dangers. Just as he’s always done.
The forestry’s calm. The only sound’s the nearby river but the light is astoundingly beautiful. Dark draped with ethereal luminosity. It’s warm and closeting and secretive. More inviting than you might imagine it. The soul of lives impressed on it.
Dad took my picture : )
This, Dad tells me is a Primus Stove, a paraffin stove for cooking on. He tripped over it one night coming from a dance. He hung it on this tree where it’s stayed ever since. ‘Would he not take it?’ someone asked, better to leave it by far’s what I thought, what he must think himself. He tips it, he smiles and moves on.
First glimpse of what’s left of the house…
The wall was stone up to a point, mud after that with a thatched roof. Even when living here the thatch was hard to maintain. Blackbirds were the biggest problem. They would tear a hole and the rain would come in. ‘We were always trying to catch and kill them, no one cared for their song then. They were too big a problem. I killed one once with a stone from a distance, my uncle was very impressed with my aim.’
‘If you were lucky enough to live by a lake you could thatch your house with reeds, more durable. Not here.’
He showed me the stones. The black ones are wet, from the river bed. Always black, always wet, not good for a house but the people, they used what they could get.
Dad stands by the fire, his hand on the mantel…He talks about them. The kind uncle, the children, the mother, the words are superfluous.
You can just about make out the doorway here…
The dividing wall’s moss covered, starting to fall
The remains of the chimney and hearth still holds court.
When my grandparents moved it was to the house beside my Dad’s grandmother. It was much better being close to the road but it was never home. Dad was gone to England by then.
Here from the moss he uncoverd the lintel…the large stone from over the fire, or door.
This is what they called the ‘wallco’, a wallcove perhaps! A little inbuilt press! I wonder what nanny kept there? It seems very her and very exciting to see, I put my hand in and conjure her who is so easy to conjure. Nanny the young mother with her ‘wallco’ and her fuchsia’s and her fire.
I don’t feel sad here. I mean, I do feel the sadness of the people who lived here and in places like it of which there were many, but to me it’s magical, grounding and peaceful. Life was hard for the mothers. Too, too hard. But I love the impressions they left, impressions felt yet and forever, intensely.
A river runs through it. A glimmering, shimmering…
If this tree could talk it would talk not of forestry, machines or of men, but of children. Nine of them.