Friday, 17 April 2015

The statue

This is another excerpt from my aunt's memoirs describing her childhood in the back streets of Derby almost a century ago.

Empire Day. 
We prepared by walking the evening before to the field with the pond in the centre and there picked red tipped daisies. Behind the churchyard we’d find bluebells or birds eye and at home, made button holes to pin to our frocks. I can’t recall a wet Empire Day. One year it was so hot that, singing in the playground, one girl fainted from the heat. To the accompaniment of a piano brought into the playground for the occasion, young voices sang with gusto Flag of Britain, Land of Hope & Glory, Rule Britannia and many more. We’d end with the National Anthem and then troop home for the rest of the day.

A great number of small incidents come to mind, after all most of life consists of trivial events which we either enjoy or if unpalatable, try to accept with as much equanimity as possible. For obvious reasons I’m sticking pretty much to the former. In any case, isn’t it better to bear in mind the happy times rather than bemoan the sad?

Cohen’s Bazaar
My friend Glad and I were about ten or eleven I suppose, we’d run errands, saved the ha’pennies until we’d sixpence each. Just before Christmas we went to Cohen’s Bazaar in St Peter’s Street, a forerunner of Woolworths.

I can’t remember what Glad bought but my choice was an open fluted glass dish the colour of dark topaz for my mother. I was thrilled with my purchase. It was of course wrapped in newspaper, nothing so extravagant as brown paper at Cohen’s and walking home (there was no money left for tram fare) I was terrified lest my prize should slip through my fingers. Dripping wet but with the goods intact we got back. I hid my present in the bedroom, managed to find a square of reasonable paper to wrap it in. Mam kept that dish for years, long after I was married.

The statue
If I went into town on an errand for Mam I sometimes was given enough to pay the tram fare and if so, chose the open top deck when possible. The tram stopped at Bloomfield Street. Sitting on the left hand side I could see over the wall and into the garden of one of the big houses. Impolite it might have been but that garden rapidly drew my eyes. Flagged path, old fashioned flower borders and shrubs, trees, immaculate lawn. And to cap all this loveliness a statue of a chubby boy. I fell in love with that grey still figure and always looked for him.

Ever since, the ambition to own a statue has never diminished though my taste has changed and I would if I could, choose something for my garden with a more classical beauty. After my husband retired – he was seventy – he went to sales galore to try and get me a statue but no success. Eventually, being a stone mason, he said he would carve one for me himself. Alas he became ill and unable but I can still see in my mind’s eye that little chubby boy amongst the roses and lavender.


Demetrius said...

As a child we did have a little statue, at the end of the path in the back garden. The plinth made a good wicket for garden cricket. Sadly, one day I beheaded the statue with my bat. I was never forgiven.

James Higham said...

Invaluable accounts, beat later research every time.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - but did you score any runs?

James - it does. People who were there knew a million details we'll never put back together again.

Demetrius said...

No, I was given out head before wicket. What was worse was that in the hurry to repair the statue with strong glue the head was put on the wrong way round. But then art was never my subject.