Joni's call.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 13 May 2013

I couldn't get 'Snarky Puppy' up today, something went wrong with my itunes so I decided to walk through the houses, past the school, left past the police station and right up to Chapel Green. past the church, right down into the town.

The wind was cold but the sky was blue.

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Shopped for some veg. Brussel sprouts are out of season so I had to buy frozen, the organic carrots had heavy feathery leaves on so I asked for two bags.

Started walking home.

The smell of newly mown grass hit me in my nostalgic gut. The smell of teenage angst, Paul Tinkler and my first snog in the back row of the now defunct cinema in Borehamwood High Street. The smell of future possibilities and unknown territory.

I carried one bag in each hand which reminded me of my mother. We thought nothing of walking two miles each way to shop. Thought nothing of putting the groceries in string bags to walk up the hill past the Grammar School, the farm and the three bus stops.

The bus came once an hour. If you needed to be somewhere in between then thumbing a lift was de rigeur. Or waiting for Major Evans to leave his house.

Major and Peggy Evans had a son called Brian. Big Brian Evans was just a little too fond of his food. He was just a little bit wobbly. I played with him, my brother and Christopher Bertrand who lived the other side.

2.jpg Chris was often seen to stand at his bedroom window and expose his youthful vigour to alighting bus passengers. Innocent fun back in them days....

We played in the fields, climbing haystacks and being chased by the farmer. Me and my brother strangers to the ways of the countryside being East Enders and all.

When it rained we played 'Truth or Dare.'

My forfeit, on a rainy day in 1958 was to put my hand in Big Brian's pocket.

Big Brian's pocket had a hole in it.

When my finger ferreted down into the murky depths of Big B's holey poche Brian's forfeit became evident. I ran home to my mother and vowed never to play with the boys again. Aged nine, I was a girl of principal and stuck to my word for many long years.

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Anyway waiting or missing the bus - the 358 - meant Major obliged. Major was, according to my parents, a little tight. When we got past the farm, outside Anna Neagle's old house, just where the hill started to descend Major turned off his engine and freewheeled down to Potters Lane.

A trick I sometimes do when we are out of cash. I think its a little bit dangerous. But hey I learnt my habits from the 1950's when life didn't feel quite so on the edge. Saving on petrol was applauded.

I was having all these thoughts as I marched home with my two bags. I used to offer to take one of the string bags off my mother but she always refused saying:

'It evens me up.'

I don't know whether she was just allowing me to walk hands free, or whether she understood the law or ergonoimics. At any rate she was bang on.

Having a bag in each hands does do the balance a world of good.

By the time I got to the farm by the bacon wagon I called Gods Gift and asked him to collect me. Time was at a premium, I was really hungry and the bags had taken on weight.....

This particular farm has yoga retreats and all sorts, the first time I stumbled on it I walked into one of the rooms. A white silk, geometric pattern, sewn onto a black velvet background, hung on the wall.

'We are not alone in the Universe' read the script underneath the picture. I made a hasty retreat.

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The farm I walked past as a kid had fresh milk churns in the kitchen. Kittens running around and the smell of chickens and fresh eggs. The fantasy farm for a child who read 'Anne of Green Gables.' and believed that families really did call each other 'Darling' whilst eating soft boiled eggs with soldiers, as they sipped from bone china tea cups behind sparkling white net curtains.

Nobody ever called anybody darling in our house. We did not have bone china tea-cups, my parents ever the Bohemians, preferring 'Melaware'. And there wasn't a net curtain in sight - we had Ventian blinds, if you don't mind..

There are a lot of those kinds of houses near where I live now, although outward appearances are deceiving. The Twillage is in the 'Guinness Book of Records' for the highest divorce rate in the UK and is a well known location for 'swinging' - I'm told.

All of which is deal-able with, what I can't stomach is the fact that 90% of the locals have bricked and tarmacked their gardens to make room for cars. Joni Mitchell called to me;

'Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone They've paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.'

This little bit of Paradise has been adulterated and transformed into a residential parking bay. Flowers, however, have managed to stake their claim and are still around, as you can see.

To quote the Tora;

'Behind every blade of grass there's an Angel willing it to grow.'

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So up yours gravel and concrete, the Angelic hoards are still winning.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

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