Last night was a great evening – Gill made a simple but yummy tea of Linda McCartney fake meat pies with peas, sweetcorn, green beans and ultra-creamy mashed potato, while Lola and I cooked some biscuits, a variation on this “fantastic dunking biscuits” recipe but we ran out of chestnut flour, so mixed it with barley flour, and didn’t have very much honey either, and it was expensive organic stuff, so I stuck in a bizarre mixture of sugar, malted rice syrup and an egg white. Whatever, they came out absolutely gorgeous, a bit like nuttier ginger nuts without the ginger, nice and crispy on the outside and chewy inside. Mmmm.
After tea, Gill taught Rowan to play chess; Rowan won, but only because Gill is such an excellent teacher (she used to run a chess club in a really run-down school in Canning Town, and would get all the most disruptive problem children sitting down for an hour at a stretch focussing on their chess). Meanwhile, Lola and I played Junior Monopoly (Lola doesn’t quite have a grasp on the rules, but she does like collecting all the different colour banknotes, especially the purple). Then I played Rowan at chess but, because I’m not such a good teacher as Gill, I beat her (close though. It’s years since I’ve played chess).
Once we’d got the kids to bed and soaked in a bath each, Gill and I sat down reading together: something of a miracle, I’ve been longing to have a quiet night on the sofa reading, but we always seem to end up with the TV on instead, or I get distracted in front of the computer. Gill was finishing off Prozac Nation while I ploughed on with Herodotus’s Histories – I want to go and see the movie Troy when it comes out next month, and I thought it might be handy to get the facts from a little closer to, erm, the horse’s mouth before I go.
I slept in this morning. At around 9am I dreamt of revisiting the house where my grandma and grandad lived when I was young – Parklands in Bowdon, just outside Manchester. They lived in the servants’ house next to an incredible 1920s stately home, art deco windows and curling staircases with naked nymphettes holding aloft globe lights. But what I remember most of all are the gardens – absolutely huge (especially to a kid of about five), six fish-ponds all with huge goldfish in them, we used to do the rounds of the gardens via the ponds. It seemed a shame when they had to put netting over all of them, to protect the fish from the herons which lived over the road. A monkey puzzle tree which astounded me with its sheer strangeness. A rockery made of crumbly white sparkling rock, we used to break small “diamonds” off this mother-lode. A wreck of a car, also 1920s-ish, hidden somewhere among the trees, we would sit inside like gangsters from a Bugsy Malone movie. A huge vegetable garden where the Guy Fawkes bonfire each year would reach twenty-feet high and burn until the morning. The grassy area behind the house where Baphomet the goat used to graze, and where the mound marking his grave was situated, covered in daffodils every spring. I stood on that same mound during my Uncle and Aunt’s wedding reception, proud in my posh shirt and tie and my Pepe cords, the first “smart” outfit I ever owned. The wishing well and the bridge over the pond near it. The two furthest corners of the garden, one a “dell” in the woods where fairies might hang out, the other some outhouses where you could climb up onto the garden wall and sit with dad looking out across the brown fields beyond. And the swimming pool – a big, round, white-tiled thing, it gave me shivers to think that anyone could ever have swum in there, so overgrown with pond-weed and duck-weed, the occasional large fish poking its head out and a duck nesting on the platform in the middle. Nearby was the summer house, with its musty woody smell common to summer houses everywhere. And grandma’s garden, the little enclosed rockery where concrete-and-rock pillars surounded you on all site, challenging you to climb them like artificial Himalayas. Hidden among the rocks and plants were gnomes, we used to count them but the place was so twisty and mysterious that you could never really guess how many might be there. I heard that it was vandalised some time after Grandma left.
The last time we visited was for grandma’s funeral. I think David and Zhero sold the house fairly soon after that – since Eugene died they didn’t have as much interest in the International Hermeneutical Society and couldn’t pay for the upkeep of the place. That world seems to have faded away now, Eugene’s works are still available but the whole setup feels like something of its time which has faded over the Eighties and Nineties. (hmmm, just found another site dedicated to Eugene – fascinating seeing his drawings again, I used to have a load of these pinned up around my bedroom wall, from a series of about 50 that he did, all of them drawn eyes-shut, “guided by the spirits”).
Anyway, my dream was coursing with these memories, but was of me in the present, trying to regain some of this for my children, trying to show them the wonders of Parklands. I ran around the gardens in a dream-within-a-dream, trying to explain to Rowan and Lola what I was seeing. I realised that I just had to take them there. I was about to drive there and ring on the doorbell and beg the current owners to let us in. I was terrified that they wouldn’t. I actually woke up crying with frustration and pain and sadness at the death of this experience. Once awake, I felt so empty and sad, but I resolved to write to the current owners and set all of this out, just to see whether they’d let us visit.
(hmmm, seems that the place, or at least the lodge, is now an estate agent’s)