The location is lost now, but I map it in clouds, sky, green smells. Imprint of grass stalks on fingers and knees. Trophy bluebells bundled in posies, stems ripped out squeaking, bleeding milky sap. May-scented wisps of wild hyacinth, harvested with the thoughtless delight of childhood.
In the photograph, we girls wear sleeveless home-made dresses. Garlanded sprigs of pastel-print cotton, under hand-knitted cardigans. White socks, Mary-Jane sandals, wet with dew, specked with torn leaves.
Propped on elbows, deep in a cluster of clover. Ladybird wings, cricket chirps, smell of sheep. Bright cowpat-flies hovering, singing, settling. Chatter of sparrows, a rustle, a flutter. Cowslips and meadowsweet. Single car passing, radio blurred. Eyes closed to drowsy red, skin nagged by endless small pricklings. Smell of hot sunlight, sharp bite of nettle leaves, bumble bees browsing, anointed with nectar.
Dad still clean-shaven, absorbed with a camera. Mum’s pink-winged spectacles, reflecting shifts of light in blue-green eyes, yet to be haunted by spectres of Stanley Royd. Hide-and-seek afternoon, giggling, crouching. I draw a snake on the hooligan’s back. One-two-three, one two three, you’re it, you’re it!
Picnic rug, beakers, two cups from the thermos-top, half-filled with over-steeped, sweetened tea. Tupperware, salmon-paste, potted-meat, Mother’s Pride. Hey Brothers’ Lemonade, marshmallow teacakes, ice-cream brick sandwiches, melting through wafers to dribble our fingers.
How time was counted then – drifting fluff, second hands, children’s tales, songs that lasted three minutes. Small, unimportant worlds, teeming with adventures, puddle-lake duckponds, thumbnail-slotted daisy chains, two-acre forests. We were low-centred, allied with small life, gravity – reality – unexplained and intermittent.
We were there only once. Fifty years feels too long to immortalise it. One fuzzy photograph – girl in a bluebell-wood, printed from slippery strips of negatives. Raincoats, long coils of bus ticket, barley sugar wrappers, lidless containers, pocket diaries, hand-me-down books, brown leather cases for defunct binoculars. Drawerfuls of faces in over-thumbed albums. Smiles gone to Kodachrome, lives into history, children to motherhood, woodland to industry.
These unreliable scatters of sense remain. Questions whose answers are inconsequential. These scraps and remnants of days did not change the world. But, still, they changed our lives. That was enough.
Meet the Author!
Su Ryder lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire. ‘Ackton Woods’ won 2nd prize in the 2023 Leeds Writers Circle Flash Fiction competition. Su’s poem ‘Behind the Pond, Meanwoodside’ won 1st prize at the 2021 Leeds Poetry Festival. Su has also been published in the Saboteur Award winning ‘Bloody Amazing’ (Dragon Yaffle), and sequel ‘Up the Duff’, also ‘And the Stones Fell Open’ (Yaffle), and on Visual Verse. Short fiction credits include Neon Magazine and Dark Lane Anthologies. Su is currently working on a first poetry pamphlet.