Thursday, 11 September 2008

The wallflowers of happiness

This dingy photo is of a strange little pre-fab home near where I live. It sits alongside one other, long-time boarded up, in the middle of a lengthy row of three-storey Victorian houses. These two particular cuckoos settled into their nest after a flying bomb flattened what had gone before in the summer of 1944. 

I love this building – not because it was born of the war, of course, but because, despite the ludicrous gentrification of my part of south-east London, it somehow seems to have resisted the big cartoon hunting net of local property developers, eager to destroy it and breed silver and exposed brick loft apartments in its place. 

And one more thing I love about it is the garden. It's maintained by one silver-haired Hercules, whose greatest labour is apparently to fill the space in front of his home with an enormous, revolving cast of flowers, whatever the season. Even at this time of year, when the afternoon light is in retreat by 5pm, it is under the occupation of a whole army of sunflowers. 

Sunflowers are OK, of course – in an obvious, yellow, attention-seeking kind of way – but I'm never happier than when the wallflowers make an appearance. Their smell reminds me of being very small – whether they grew in our own garden or I used to inhale them on my walk to primary school, I don't remember. Whatever, it's a much more welcome way to remember what it felt like to be that age than, say, being told off at work or having conjunctivitis.

One of these days, when I see Silver-haired Hercules at work outside, I will tell him how much I love his garden, and how it lifts my sagging spirits every morning on my way to the train station, instead of pretending to rummage for something in my bag, in an I-live-in-London-of-course-I-don't-talk-to-my-neighbours kind of way. I will also ask him if he takes requests. I would like to see some pansies, and perhaps some peonies too.

I'm hoping the sunflowers will still be there in a week-and-a-half's time when I will next be reunited with my laptop. I must endure a brief separation from the blog, but I hope we can all bear it cheerfully and I will see you all, in some medium or other, very soon.

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