Three things come together this week that make me feel nostalgic. One the garden looks lovely and especially the hostas and irises.
Second the warm weather justifies the start of the moth trap season to see what if any moths are flying around the garden just now. And third the first test match of the year begins at Lord’s, this year versus Pakistan.
In the garden, I’ve been reorganising the working area so that is less obtrusive and more accessible utilising as many old pieces of wood, doors etc as possible.
I had help but the new space is better and, well, I know how pleased mum would have been to see the are set up using stuff I’ve sourced from behind the shed and, especially, from neighbours’ skips.
There wasn’t a plank, a piece of flotsam or a mammal’s dropping that mum wouldn’t collect in order to develop her garden. When eventually she had to empty the attic to move into a bungalow following dad’s death the house sighed with relief and sprang free from the foundations.
I believe it is now living wild in Carmarthen with a much younger terrace, having sired several cottages and a couple of dodgy Prefabs it met on the House To House dating website where ‘bricks mix’.
The second was that the warmer weather justified the first appearance of the moth trap.
As it happened it rained so the pickings were sparse but there’s no memory of dad that is complete if it doesn’t contain a moth or butterfly, a caterpillar or a chrysalis.
There was always a palpable frisson of excitement every morning when we switched off the mercury vapour light and removed the bulb.
What would the night bring? Sometimes it wasn’t much; at other times the trap jostled with activity. But dad never lost his enthusiasm. There was always hope, always a better day tomorrow if today was poor. And if today was good then tomorrow might still be the best yet.
Oddly, if dad could be optimistic about his moth trap, attending a sporting event where an England participated, he was much more likely to be clouded in gloom. Many were the times he would lapse into a pre match gloom as we discussed one side’s strengths (the opposition) versus the other’s weaknesses (England).
But within that self protective, self imposed depression lurked a sliver of hope, like a little child peering through spread fingers. On those days, when the stars aligned, especially if Australia were the opposition, he’d squeeze his pudgy fingers into fists and widen his eyes slightly demonically and meet my gaze. That expression, that revived belief suffused every pore. It said ‘yep, I knew it all along’.
And afterwards, he would ride that release of euphoria with stories from the 40s and 50s when he watched other teams pull rabbits from hats. He might even allow a little hope to carry him into the next game. Until the first set back when the clouds gathered and the possibility of silver linings melted into some imagined cumulus.
Mum saw hope in rubbish and rot, she perceived a renewal, a future. Dad showed how you can both hang on to hope and refind it when you think it gone.
Both have long gone, but those memories remain. Even today, as a wicket fell and England looked likely to slide towards a collapse I could recall the day in 2005, a few months after he’d died when England pulled off the coup of my lifetime, beating the best visiting team there’s been, on an overcast afternoon in South London. That day, shared with my uncle and son, had me sniffling that the old boy wasn’t there. My red nose was lost amongst the outpouring of a different kind of emotion from the crowd. That day it was my lad who clenched his fists and cheered, a generation skipped. Maybe the tears were of hope. After all that was as good a legacy as he could leave. Thanks