For day eight of #30DaysWild, I remember my Nan…
It would have been my Nan’s birthday today. I always remember, even though it’s 20 years since she died. What’s that got to do with 30 Days Wild? Well, her garden was definitely one of the roots of my interest in nature.
She lived about 10 minutes from the house I grew up in, on the suburban edge of West London, not far from Heathrow Airport. Despite the urban location her garden had a wild feel – not least because it was actually more than one garden. She and my grandad were the last remaining occupiers of a cluster of two up-two down houses. (Theirs had a lean to ‘scullery’ and an outside lavatory – but that’s another story.) Because there were no neighbours she had access to the other gardens. My grandad did his best to grow vegetables in the long front gardens and a green house in the back, but there were also yards of wildness.
What I recall most vividly is being stung by nettles and also by a bee – which I must have accidentally squashed in the darkness of a camp my brother had built. The nettle stings were followed by the rubbing on of dock leaves, which left a moist green residue on my legs. I don’t remember if the bee sting hurt, but I recall being very sad when my Nan it explained it would have killed the bee.
I remember a huge green fir tree, which wood pigeons liked to sit in. I remember a bird feeder on my Nan’s washing line, but frustratingly I can’t picture the birds which visited. I remember my Nan being fearless when it came to spiders – including an enormous one she called Brenda, which I think resided in the aforementioned outside loo. Yet worms made her quite queasy and if one needed rescuing she’d only ever pick it up on a shovel.
What I didn’t remember, until I saw them growing in my garden in Kent when I moved here a few years ago, were a particular type of little blue flower with a hairy stalk and robust leaves. I’ve learned since that they are called Green Alkanet and are important for a number of pollinating insects. A little piece of knowledge that’s just one of the ways I remember my Nan.