Monday, April 14, 2008

Note to sis

Sister Carol sent these two pictures in, both of our "ancestral seat." Ivy Cottages, Whitely Woods, Sheffield, known as "The Woods" in our family, as in "I'll take Mike and Carol to the woods today." Which for us kids meant a long two-three mile walk with mother down to the house where her father was born and where our great aunts and uncles still lived in a kind of decayed Edwardian country cottage style. The great aunts and uncles, and our own maternal grandparents Arthur and Lettie Watson, were the Great War generation, and so needed each other in ways we'll never quite ken, and so they lived out their lives quietly in the cottage on the left. That's probably them seated on the wall like monkeys in a row, before the war, and before their lives became unimaginably difficult. Our great grandmother sold teas to people out for a stroll in what was then a riverside walk and became a Sheffield park.

The cottage itself was rented by the family from a local landlord. It was later bought by the city council. We continued to live there, one or the other family member, and all in all, there were Watsons in the house for over 100 years. If I could, I would live there today. But it's now a council rental, and a stranger lives there with our ghosts, no-one we know.

Grandad learned to be a master gardener there, at his expert father's knee. Which is what he did for the years of his life that he wasn't a British soldier. He served in both wars and survived the Great Depression by "joining up" again at age 29. When he wasn't in the mob, he and his dad kept up the vegetable and flower gardens at the cottages as well as at the "big houses" where they were employed (Grandad worked for the "Master Cutler," the head of the Sheffield cutler's guild).

Sunday strollers would admire the hydrangeas and roses over the garden fence.

And now my wife Aimee and I live in a cottage at the end of a country road backed on to the woods and grow gardens and I am an ex-British serviceman. Sunday strollers tend to drive by on their four-wheelers, though, and they don't stop to admire our sheep, barns, or vegetables.

Don't know what they're missing, do they?

Hey sis:

Still waiting on lambs from Molly. Aimee doesn't think she's pregnant, but she's so huge she must be. The picture from Andrew wouldn't open, file corrupted or something. Send it again if you get a chance. The picture of the Woods sure looks like those kids might be our grandad and great aunts and uncles -- the right age range, and number.

The snow finally melted, but what a mess underneath all that, Dog-do everywhere, the grit from the gritter trucks all over the lawn, shattered bits of wood from firewood pallets. And under all that somewhere, our precious lawn!

It took about twelve hours work and I had to use the tractor rake as well as the lawn rakes. I'm so sore!

Aimee's tomatoes are coming up, in trays in the south facing window of my den. She says my den is now a "plant room." Bugger.

Just pottering about today really, still sore from lawn raking. I made an old well pump into a new mailbox post. Very creative. Hope the mail ladies like it. Aimee made crumpets -- real crumpets, only home made. Very good indeed. Also creative.

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