Sunday, March 24, 2013

My First Plant

My home town, Swansea in South Wales, was badly bombed during the Second World War, in fact it was bombed forty-four times and most brutally in February 1941 when three days of continuous bombardment reduced it to a desert of ruins. Swansea was for centuries a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution and an important seaport and so the target of the bombing was the docklands that shipped coal and steel to the rest of Britain and the World.  However in those terrible days and nights it was the city centre and residential areas that took the brunt of the attack, leaving it a burnt out core and leaving 219  dead and 260 seriously injured.
My mother and me standing in a bomb site around 1949.
This was the world that I was born into at the end of the war in 1945.  Life in those post-war years was very austere, I realize that now, but as a child it was all that I knew and was excited as I saw the  rebuilding of the town around me. I had no idea of the losses that the town had taken and was delighted at the newness of the reborn city centre.  The highlight of my week was going to town to spend my pocket money and it was on one of these trips that I first encountered a new, very smart florist, it seemed then to by the most luxurious thing imaginable, filled with colour and fragrance. There were flowers and plants that were on the whole very familiar, but on one occasion I found  something extraordinarily exotic, something I had only seen on television, something that was definitely not local, it was a cactus! I had to have it, of course, and the tiny plant in an equally tiny pot was carried home with pride. My parents were horrified at the cost of this little treasure, but allowed me to place it in the living room window. But with little encouragement from them, I allowed this plant to go the way of so many houseplants, it became "wallpaper", disappearing from my everyday consciousness  and slowly became a desiccated shell.


siobhan curious said...

Ah, so often the case with childhood plants; I have memories of many houseplants turning to crumbly dust on my windowsill. This piece is so evocative of a place and time! I'm really enjoying reading the Grow Write Guild posts; you'll find mine here:

Angie said...

Whilst times were not easy in Post War Britain, I feel that people from your generation have gained so much appreciation for everything that followed.
It's difficult to imagine a child from today's generation getting so excited over a tiny little cactus.
A lovely memory for you to share with us, thank you.

Paul Jung said...

Hi Barry,

thanks for sharing. I appreciate your honesty in reliving this memory, plants seem to evoke specific associations and events for many. Mine is a much more mundane story of a young boy receiving a tomato seedling in a styrofoam cup at school, but still powerful.

LauraH said...

Even after reading a fair amount about the Blitz, I can't imagine what it must have been like, how people were able to manage. I wonder how we would respond to such a terrible time. Thank you for sharing this memory and the wonderful picture.

Amy Andrychowicz said...

Wow, amazing. I love that you ended up getting the cactus, I'm sure it took a long time to die. Thought I’d share my post from the Grow Write Guild exercise… My First Plant


Barry Parker said...

Thank you all for your comments. It was surprisingly emotional as I researched the facts about my home town.
Looking forward to Gayla's next prompt.

Stephenie Daily @ Garden Girl said...

It's so funny to me to think of cactus as an exotic plant because I grew up with them everywhere in the US southwest. Even now as an adult living in the cold and snowy mid-west, I find myself passing them by. :)

Val said...

Barry, I enjoyed your post and think it says a lot about a person's love for plants, no matter the circumstances. I also enjoyed looking at some of your previous posts. I like the focus on individual plants.
Here's a link to my post:
Thanks, Valerie

James Missier said...

What an amazing rich life-story you have that you can share with your children.
And that totally cactus!
I can never another cactus again without thinking what you had went thru whenever I water mine at my balcony.
Amazing Barry!

Barry Parker said...

Thanks James, I'm sure most of us have a similar story.