This story I wrote about my memories of 134 Oglander Road, East Dulwich, London where I lived from 1948 until 1960 with my grandparents, Dick and Hannah Beal.
On an ordinary street in a middle class suburban area of London, our semi-detached house was just another in a line of typical city homes.
Separating the 'real world' from our small share of heaven stood a tall wooden gate. Green flat paint, long faded, supported the beginning of a high wooden fence that divided the narrow alley along the side of the house from our neighbours.
The fence and path continued down the garden, and at the back of the house the alley widened onto the cracked concrete patio with an old-fashioned trellis fence and archway. At the far end of the paved rectangle, a crude, functional aviary housed a profusion of brightly coloured budgies, chattering happily.
Rambling roses wove long tendrils along the fence, showering splashes of red over the archway, through which the garden spread. Two long flower-beds sandwiched the path. Gladioli, dahlias and other flowers grew in a constant mass of sizes and hues, colours to match the spicy fragrance. Grandfather's pride.
At the bottom of the garden, across the lawn from the flower beds, a great old pear tree grew, its branches heavy with fruit. On a lower bough my flying machine hung in the form of a well-used swing. Supported by two lengths of worn rope and secure on the smooth wooden seat I would soar high above the fence, eyes closed, head back, hair flying, hearing only the whooshing wind as it sped past my ears.
A couple of feet behind the tree a full rain barrel stood below a drainpipe attached to the wall of a single-story, brick workshop. Two dark windows stared vacantly at the house from this wall.
Standing on the rain barrel I climbed the drainpipe to the flat roof that was encased on three sides by a short brick wall. One side was denuded of this parapet, exposing the house.
Feeling daring, I'd venture around the top of the wall, or concealed by the protective branches of the pear tree, laying unobserved, face toward the sun I would listen. A small plane soaring skyward in the distance, created a solitary white streak in the opulent blue.
Remote traffic noises would fade into dreams of far-off places: Disneyland, Roy Rogers or a wonderful exotic island.
In the evening peacefulness, I could hear muffled voices or the clatter of dinner dishes. An old push lawnmower toiled clumsily somewhere, evoking a sweet scent of fresh cut grass.
As the sun set, a cool evening breeze would caress my relaxed form, arousing my skin with tingling goose bumps. About this time my grandmother's familiar voice sought me out, announcing bedtime.
Beckoned out of my reverie, I'd climb reluctantly down the drainpipe to touch the silky softness of the rainwater, clear and sweet in the slimy green confines of the barrel and smelling its wonderful earthy aroma.
Emerging from behind the pear tree, I lingered while admiring the beauty of a single peach-coloured rose that expelled such a provocative scent. One of a mass lining the knot-holed picket fence.
Sauntering back toward the house, I paused at the stumpy, wide-spreading apple tree, debating whether to pick one of the large, sweet, crisp green apples that filled both my hands and emitted never-ending juice that quenched the driest thirst with a bite.
But the determination in grandmother's voice pulled me on towards bedtime and life, away from my thinking place until my next escape.
Ann Vance, British Columbia, Canada, 2001
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