Not a Country girl

Having lived all my life either in, or close to, London, England I’m not exactly what you might call a ‘Country girl.’ I do remember coming home from school with a snake in a box having agreed to look after it for the long summer holidays. How was I to know my mother was petrified of snakes? Actually it was only a slow-worm but she never got close enough to see the difference. He was immediately consigned to Dad’s shed at the end of the garden with the door firmly locked.

After a few days we discovered he was no longer in his box, or anywhere on the surrounding floor. He was nowhere to be seen! I was upset the teacher would think I’d been negligent, Dad was wondering how to tell Mum the snake was on the loose, and if we would be allowed back into the house until he turned up. I should explain; the shed was not a pristine, brand-new structure with laminated shelves. Instead it was a proper large workman’s shed, with uneven floorboards and plenty of dark nooks and crannies. A solid oak, unplanned workbench ran along the side under the windows, and underneath two massive trunks held an assortment of tools. A high shelf ran along the opposite side, and I can remember it held red and blue tins which contained an assortment of various nails, washers and screws.

Perhaps recycling is not such a modern idea after all, although I’ve just seen some of the old tins advertised as collectibles for around £20 each! I remember Dad had a cobbler’s last (I think that’s how you spell it) which was basically an upside-down metal mould which he used when replacing the heels and soles of our shoes. As well as room for half a dozen people, the shed also contained the lawn mower, ladders, watering cans, hoses, planks of wood, strips of iron and anything else which might come in useful one day. All in all it offered plenty of places to hide, always assuming Mr Worm hadn’t escaped through the floorboards, and was already wiggling his way to pastures new.

After an hour or so, Dad and I gave up searching and decided to go and face the music by admitting to Mum our guest could be anywhere, and even the house was no longer safe. It was as we went to close the shed door we discovered him. He had wrapped himself around the hinge and somehow managed to avoid being squashed when we opened it.

I never remember having cats, but for most of my life there have been dogs as part of the family. My favourites have always been the medium or larger breeds, lap dogs were not for me, so they were generally mongrels and rescues with either Alsatian or Labrador genes. When my mobility meant I could no longer cope with walkies twice a day, I had to accept my dog days were over when my staffie cross died at aged 17.

Word must have spread because before too long a fox appeared in the garden. At first ‘Cheeky‘ kept his distance, but after a while gained confidence and would confidently wander into the conservatory. The tub chairs still show the claw marks on the arms as he turned in circles to find the most comfortable position on the cushions.

Over the years other foxes must have heard it was a good place to live rent free, with regular meals, fresh water and an open shed providing somewhere to shelter from the rain. As some moved on, others took their place, and I needed to check the dates on some of the photographs to remember exactly when Cheeky, Chico, Lucy, Rosie and all their families actually resided here. At the moment Mum has three youngsters, but Dad seems to have taken off once he knew she was pregnant.

Lockdown might have had an extra impact as the wildlife seems to have flourished when the air became less polluted as cars and planes were restricted. Pigeons and wood pigeons strut their stuff and I began to recognise one particular pair, the larger grey male would never leave the smaller darker female in peace. All she wanted to do was eat, all he wanted to do was get amorous.

From the other larger birds, I was never quite sure if they were crows, jackdaws or magpies. Research shows the carrion crow is all black, the jackdaw has a grey neck and shorter beak, and the black and white magpie from up close has a blue wing. All three can be seen and heard in the garden regularly, as well as the two parakeets which I believe escaped from somewhere locally a few years ago, and are now living wild.

I always think of the robin as a winter bird, but one has been watching recently when someone was doing the garden. A memory from my childhood was the ubiquitous sparrow, but they appeared to have almost become extinct, and it was only when several joined the banquet last month I realised how much they had been missing.

My father served in Burma during the war and always had a fascination with tigers. It might have been an unusual present to buy an 80-year-old, but Raj came to live with me when Dad died.

For a house only a few miles from central London, it’s surprising how much wildlife can be seen if in the words of the poem you take the time to stop and stare. Unfortunately, only a few are privileged to see the other animals I breed in my very own garden shed, but this will give you an idea what they look like.

What has all this to do with the books I write? Absolutely nothing, I just thought it would make a change, and if Queen Elizabeth can have Paddington as her guest I’d show you a few of mine.

Thanks for dropping by.

© Val Portelli June 2022

Val Portelli Amazon author page.

6 thoughts on “Not a Country girl

  1. I can just imagine your dad’s wonderful shed . We did actually manage to lose my friend’s children’s hamster when they were away for three weeks. He escaped from his rotastack and apparently for years after her children accused mine of killing their hamster.

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  2. Brought quite a few memories back. I am a country girl, although the village where I grew up is now called a town. It was a village where you could sit in the middle of the road all day and one or two cars would pass. We’d take their numbers down. When we were not in England between army postings, we’d stay with my grandmother in the village (late my parents purchased a house there), and she had such things in her garden shed – granddad died when I was very young. He did, however, have a last for repairing shoes, and it was still there even though he died in 1955. My grand would ‘turn’ collars on coats and shirts, make coats from blankets and make do and mend with all sorts of things so everyone during the war could make the most of all they owned.. You pinged my memory cells today. Thanks so much, such a fab blog and photos. Had a blast reading this Val. Thanks. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the last had been passed down through his family, Jane. He was the youngest, so most of his older siblings would have the ‘make do and mend’ mentality as a matter of course. I think I inherited the concept as I hate to throw things away -‘It’ll come in useful one day.’ 😀 So pleased you enjoyed the post- It was actually great fun writing it. x

      Liked by 1 person

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