Mum was an adventurous gardener for her day. She had all the normal gardening habits as she learned her craft and gained confidence, then her plans for each garden grew larger.
Her main aim was to create some kind of water feature in every garden we moved to. Mum elected herself the family digger of holes, for decades she dug ponds and water courses by hand shovelful by shovelful. Depending on the size of the gardens as to how many and how large.
Occasionally Dad helped but he was at heart a builder of walls and paths, the keeper of the roses, the sometime mower of lawns, besides, he would argue, he had his writing to attend too (actually apart from the before mentioned he had little interest in the garden)
However Mum not only enjoyed gardening she was green fingered and water in a garden was an essential.
Now most sensible folk would pick their days for the back breaking task of digging out, by hand, large amounts of earth of the correct size and shape. Not her. Well maybe by her lights she did.
It was everyone else who considered her crazy!
It had to be a hot day!
It had to the middle of the day!
She had to be clothed from ankle to neck in a heavy duty cotton boiler suit!
No matter how we protested her crazy method of working she persisted and for years when friends wrote, phoned or stopped for a chat they would comment on the weather as Brits always do, say
‘It’s been hot this week. I guess you have a few more ponds dug out.’
She made superb ponds, twisty water courses, which to my very early delight attracted all things amphibian. I had a new interest, one which grew as I did. Frogs, frogspawn, and froglets I knew their life cycle intimately, before I could read the books describing them. Then toads and newts, rarer in a city but they would find their way to the ponds and surrounding greenery. I would stalk them all, sit and wait, lie on my stomach talking to them; they fascinated me.
I learnt about their dual life in and out of the water.
I fell for their gold eyes and strange voices.
They were my friends, my ‘fairies’ at the bottom of the garden metaphorically speaking.
The addition to all this water in our garden was the added pleasure of grass snakes, and slow worms. Now these were not seen often in urban settings and my delight in their presence knew no bounds. We had perfect gardens for them, water, rough grass, compost heaps and basking areas. I spent hours slithering after them. It took a while before I realised the slow worm was not a variation of the snake, not even a large worm, but rather, a legless lizard
I had a lizard in the garden
I was a strange child!
It was to be decades after these childhood encounters before I saw another in a back garden, again one with a pond added and plenty of undergrowth to support their shy ways.
Unfortunately cats are also fascinated by snakes and I had to spend a great deal of time rescuing them from our instinctively curious felines.
When I grew old enough to learn more about these creatures I watched so insidiously they became even more exciting and offered the first glimmers of the wonder of evolution.
When I grew strong enough to stand next to Mum with a shovel I too dug holes in the ground, only I took the early morning shift:)