The Blue Flower
It was close by my talking place that I later found an exquisite little blue flower which the teacher said was a speedwell, and whose name I remembered always, but didn’t see the flower again for many years. The other wall was the one at the front of the whole land, were I watched for Dad coming up the hill. There was a well-built, high wall round the big house along the lane, which had ivy in places, and a few little spider-holes and tiny bits of vegetation – walls were always interesting to loiter beside.
Until that time I contented myself playing my own games largely, I had several walls that were nice places to pretend. The front garden wall had a flat sandstone top, and if I rubbed my fingers or palms about on this, a slight powdery patch developed and my skin became wondrously soft and smooth – I never quite wore it away. If I wanted to produce a heap of sand instead of a thin skinned finger, I rubbed another piece of stone to and fro on the wall, and soon had al little pile to scoop up. Along the back lane there was an angle of the wall round a little field which had started to fall apart, and there was a sort of little cavern about my head height and a shelf like stone below the gap: there I used to go to try talking like the older people did. I ‘did things’ on the shelf, perhaps baking , writing, washing up, all the things so important to adult like, making talking noises to myself.
There was often a wooden bench where we went, which would always be used. Stone Lane had one, and although it was only a few hundred yards from home, we sat on it for a minute or two at least. The best on e was at the bottom of Norland Moor, where there was a high wall and a stile up and over. From that bench we looked out towards Halifax, over the Calder Valley, with Copley to the left and Salterhebble to the right, and Greetland Station below. Stations were busy then, especially with trucks of coal and other goods, and we would count the trucks as these small, distant engines chuffed along below us. We could watch signals change and guess which trains would leave Copley and go up to Halifax, and which would turn for Greetland and go on to Elland. Between Greetland and Elland stations was the large hump of Elland Wood, which had two great black ‘chimney pots’ above the tunnel, and at times there was a lovely white cloud of steam rushing out of first one, then the second one. We could read the time on the Church clock across the valley, on Skircoat Green near Wainhouse Tower. We could see tiny men moving about their hen pens, and tiny dogs sniffling about hither and thither: sometimes there was a distinctive Halifax bus, cream and orange, crawling between houses, away into the town centre. There was always the time to watch and notice. I didn’t always understand what I saw, and for years loved the moving shapes of purplish colour that spread across the moors and fields, sometimes hardly moving, sometimes fairly galloping along, without realising what caused them.
Stony Lane was one of my favourite places; it seemed to have lovely flowers and blackberries late. I didn’t go there on my own as far as I remember, but seemed to often be there with Dad, Maurice or the gang. One day I was out with Dad, and for once picked some magnificent buttercups along the lane and lagged behind. When we turned into Scholes Lane, I ran very fast to catch him and show my flowers, but unfortunately fell and really hurt my knees as the road had recently had big chippings spread. I always had a blackish mark on my right knee as a result, and I howled and howled. The thing that caused my heartbreak however was the sight of the smashed golden petals, smeared over the sharp granite chips.
The Dead Dog
The two boys from the big house on Shutts Lane took the gang one day to the mill they owned near Stain Bridge, (called Stain Mill) As usual, the ‘getting there’ was the important part and took a long time. When we came to the canal near the bridge, the boys saw a drowned brown dog in the water. I was very saddened by this and puzzled by what ‘dead’ was. At least it prevented the dog from barking at me, or knocking me over. Someone who lived near us had a large, floppy spotty dog, which certainly knocked me over once, up Stony Lane where we were picking blackberries – I was very frightened and took some calming down. That was the start of my fear of dogs, and I went to some trouble to avoid them for about forty years, until we had Bramble, and I began to understand dogs.