The first house I lived in had a beautiful, brick wall running along one side of the back garden, and I have wanted a garden wall of my own ever since.
The story of Peter Rabbit’s narrow escape from Mr McGregor’s walled garden, barely avoiding being flattened with a sieve and forcing him to leave behind his little blue jacket, fascinated me.
I was also fascinated by the door in the wall to The Secret Garden,
another one of my favourite stories.
Whenever I visit historical places, walled gardens draw me the most.
Ancient walls beckon too, now crumbled and worn after centuries of erosion and damage, yet still clinging on to the last vestiges of their glory days long ago,
when they belonged to buildings, homes, palaces even.
I wonder which part of the ancient palace at Knossos, in Crete,
these ruined walls once belonged to?
What secrets were revealed in countless letters pushed through this old, French post box affixed to the original wall of this still-working family farm,
handed down from generation to generation?
But there is one wall that for me, holds a very different kind of memory:
one of a young girl’s rebellion.
The house next door to us in the small village in Surrey where I spent the first ten years of my life, was a corner shop, above which the owners lived.
By the time I was seven or eight, my mother often sent me over to buy a loaf of bread. I enjoyed the independence this errand gave me; I also loved to look at all the sweets lined up on the shop counter.
Sometimes I raided my plastic money-box to buy a packet of Spangles or Rolos but I didn’t have a lot of spare change and I did like my sweets, so one day, I hatched a plan: I would steal them.
The next time I went to the shop to buy bread, I waited for the owner, Mr Reed, to disappear out of the back of the shop to get the bread as he always did. As soon as he left the room, I grabbed as many packets of sweets as I could, cramming them into the little shoulder bag I had worn for the purposes of hiding my stolen goods.
As soon as I returned home, I handed my mother the bread and then scarpered upstairs as fast as I could to admire my loot. I felt not a pang of conscience.
I knew it was very wrong to steal, but I did it anyway. In fact, I had wanted to do it and not only that, I had got away with it. So I did it again.
My crimes escalated to the point that I became brazen.
In the grip of my strange, dark plottings, I got the bizarre idea to walk over to elderly Mrs Curtley’s house which was opposite the shop on the other side of the lane, whereupon I would sit on her wall in front of her house, eat my sweets one after the other, and toss the wrappers into her front garden, throwing them, and all caution, into the wind.
Again, I knew littering was wrong, but I did it anyway. What possessed me to do these things? I wish I knew.
I also thought nobody was watching, but of course, they were. Hidden eyes, from behind net curtains, twitching, quietly observing my every move.
And then, one day, I went too far. As usual, I waited for Mr Reed to get the bread and as I reached for a packet of sweets, to my horror, he reappeared.
“Are you going to pay for those?” he boomed. I almost dropped the sweets in shock.
“Oh, yes, of course…here…” I shook as I frantically reached into my little bag but of course I didn’t have any money. I left the shop without any sweets that day and after that, my life of crime came to an abrupt end.
The most I could hope for, was that Mr Reed wouldn’t tell my mother.
But it wasn’t Mr Reed I had to worry about.
Not long after my humiliation, the dreaded knock announcing Mrs Curtley’s arrival at our front door arrived. When Mum returned to the living room clutching a handful of screwed up sweet wrappers in her hands, I didn’t need to look up at her face to know she was steaming.
At the time, my dad was between jobs and worked temporarily on the night shift at, of all things, an Opal Sweet factory (now called Starburst, one of my favourites, wouldn’t you know) in the nearby town of ‘Leatherhead’.
He was upstairs asleep at the time of Mrs Curtley’s arrival, but it was the only time I ever heard my mother say she was going to tell Dad what I had done as soon as he woke up later that day. Gulp.
So yes, I took my punishment and we’ll leave it at that. Made to apologise face to face to Mrs Curtley and Mr & Mrs Reed (oh the burning shame of it!), I never stole or littered again. I hope they forgave me.
I still don’t understand why I did it. Perhaps I just wanted some attention. And I certainly got that.
Strangely though, when I think of that time in my life, I remember being obsessed with this place called ‘Leatherhead’, imagining that everyone who lived there literally had heads of leather, sort of football shaped.
To this day, I have never been to Leatherhead, but I seriously doubt that the people who live there wear boiler suits and leather masks while welding massive chainsaws.
Then again, in today’s world, nothing would surprise me.
This then sees the end of my challenge posts, and also includes my entry for ‘Wall’, the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt.
I would like to tag blogging friend lbeth at Nutsrok who is writing her memoir, to tell some delicious secrets for the Tell 5 Secrets Blog Hop and my friend Ste J at Book to the Future for the Black & White 5 Day Photo Challenge, because I just know he will come up with some great photos and stories in his uniquely creative fashion.
Many thanks once more to the lovely Lilka, Jude and Sarah for tagging me for these two challenges, I’ve really enjoyed it and thanks to the push of these challenges, I finally learnt how to use the special effects of the photo editing programme that came with my new laptop.
And last, but not at all least, thank you again so much to all of you for your loyal visits throughout these challenges. More than anything, I’m thrilled that you’ve enjoyed them.
After all, that’s what it’s all about!