In the far-off days of childhood, when my little sister Maggie and I were walking to school in the mornings our favourite game was called "Gardens." You won't have ever heard of it because we made it up. We made
up a lot of games, my sister and I.
Anyway, here is how we played "Gardens." As we walked along the road (any road was fine, so long as it had houses with front gardens, for reasons
soon to become apparent) we scored the gardens out of a possible ten. Scruffy bit of lawn with a few overgrown bushes? Well that would be a 3, then, or possibly a 4 if we were feeling generous. Beautiful manicured lawn with borders
overflowing with spring flowers? That might just merit a 10. Obviously it would depend to a certain extent on our mood on any particular morning, for example whether one of us had a Mental Arithmetic test or whether it was Cheese Flan day for school dinner.
I was remembering our game yesterday, as I walked back from church and suddenly found myself scoring the gardens along the way. I know old habits die hard - but, honestly, it was more than fifty years ago,
you'd think I'd have grown out of it by now...
Walking to school with my sister was one of my Pleasures in Life. However for some months it was also fraught with danger. As we were walking
in one direction, towards the Girls Grammar School, a gang of girls from the local Secondary Modern would be walking in the other direction - straight into our path. I suspect it was the hats we were forced to wear - grey felt in the winter,
straw boaters in the summer -which so inflamed their passions. That and the fact that, innocents abroad, we always walked hand in hand, my sister and I. You can probably imagine the cat-calling, the pushing and the shoving.
Well, I was the Big Sister. I was the one who needed to take charge of the situation. "Every time we meet them," I told my quaking sister, "We will smile at the ring-leader and say Hello, Cobber!" My poor sister looked at
me as if I were mad. I think she had been hoping I might come up with a more imaginative solution - like taking the bus.
It took months. Every day, we smiled brightly and said: "Hello, Cobber!" In
the beginning it made not a bit of difference but gradually we wore them down. The pushing and shoving stopped, the cat-calls became half-hearted. Finally the ring-leader could take no more: "What does cobber mean ?" she was forced to ask us. That's
when I explained it was Australian slang. For friend.
And that's what we became. Sort of. There are more ways than one to fight a battle, I've always thought.
On the way back from aqua-aerobics this morning (well, it was so wet outside, that jumping about in a swimming pool and getting even wetter seemed almost logical) I have a look at our front garden. It's much neater now with the neat brick wall
where the overgrown bushes used to be. The lawn has some kind of shape to it, though it's not clearly defined. There are no flowers. It is a November-Going-On-December kind of a garden. My sister would probably give it a 5/10 but only because she loves me
and remembers how I used to look out for her.
Ah, but come the spring and all those bulbs I have patiently thrust into the bare patches of garden will burst into life. The snowdrops! The daffs! The
grape hyacinths that come up every year regardless!
We shall be a 10/10 garden again - betcha!