‘I can see him now,’ my Nana told me, talking about her dad, ‘because he went up our garden over the road and the mountain started from there up… and he’d go so far up and he’d turn back and wave to us, and if we went out to play, our Mam would say, “you can go up the mountain to play…” but every now and then our Mam would come out in the garden and we had to wave to her to know that we were alright you know… always remember going up the mountain…’
I interviewed my Nana in 2007, the year before she died. What she was describing was a scene from her childhood landscape in the years after the First World War. During the Second World War, a young boy called Otto Dov Kulka was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He recalls his childhood landscape thus:
“The colour is blue: clear blue skies of summer. Silver-coloured toy aeroplanes carrying greetings from distant worlds pass slowly across the azure skies while around them explode what look like white bubbles. The aeroplanes pass by and the skies remain blue and lovely, and far off, far off on that clear summer day, distant blue hills as though not of this world make their presence felt.”
In previous blogs I have described my childhood landscapes, both real and imagined; most recently in the context of childhood landscapes pre World War I, this time of two girls who lived in what is now Bury Knowle Park in Headington, Oxford.
My childhood landscapes are bound up with journeys to and from my grandparents’ houses and in particular, my Nan’s garden (pictured below) also in Headington.
I have walked in all these places; in my grandparents’ garden; in Bury Knowle Park, on the ‘mountain’ in Wales and in Auschwitz. I spent many happy years in the garden of my childhood home (which has all but disappeared under a vast extension to the house).