‘Mr Messy’s House’


As I begin to heal and strengthen, I was elated when I booked a flight back to England (my original home) to visit my precious family and beloved best friend. After my purchase and to my surprise, there was an influx of childhood memories.  As I was lying in bed attempting to fall asleep my head was swimming with images and events that had been lying dormant in the corners of my brain. Somehow, last night, a breath of life revived them and they became brand new and shiny again.

I have referred previously in many blogs that epilepsy was the epicenter of my childhood. However, all the recollections which presented themselves weren’t related and reminded me that as a child, life contained a great deal of happiness.

The stimulus that educed this reminiscence was passing a rather bedraggled blackberry bush. I love blackberry bushes.  In the house we lived in there was an L shaped piece of land attached. There was a rectangular garden with a garage at the end and then past the garage to the left was the driveway. Just past the garage was also a dilapidated fence with a hole small enough for me to squeeze through into next door’s garden. In the summer I would collect a large plastic container from the kitchen, pull on my wellies for protection, find my scissors and scurry up to the back of the garage. Before diving into next door’s garden, (affectionately known as Mr. Messy’s garden) I would assess the prickles and devise a strategy that would prevent the least amount of bloodshed! Preparation included reaching through and cutting the thick stems, (it was always surprising to me how much children’s scissors could withstand as mine never broke) to give me ample space to move.  Additionally, I clearly wasn’t aware of the damage I was doing to the plant, as I scandalously chopped and trod on it leaving an open path in my wake.

Upon readiness, I would gingerly climb through and begin possibly one of my very favorite activities. I’d seek out the blackberries, pick them, pop them into my container as well as a few in my mouth for good measure; I had to ensure they were up to standard for eating you’ll understand. Cutting the brambles as I went I’d pray that my next door neighbor wouldn’t see me, not that he picked the blackberries nor did he take care of his garden for that matter but technically, I was trespassing.

I would be out there for hours by myself or sometimes with friends. When they were there it was a race for who could get the most.  Sometimes we’d argue and try to steal from someone else’s pot if we felt we didn’t have enough.  It was pretty intense this blackberry business! It was also terribly cathartic and one of the activities that evoked more joy than any other.

Once I had stripped the brambles bare, I’d skip down the garden and show my mum the fruits of my labor (quite literally). She would always without fail be as excited as I giving me all the options that could be created with those lovely little juicy black berries. My favorite was always a blackberry and apple pie which she made perfectly. We would more often have it after Sunday lunch and sometimes as a treat we’d buy cream which would make it taste even MORE divine if that was possible.

I loved it. I loved being part of that process right from the very beginning. From the pleasure and love which went into the picking, to the washing and cleaning of the fruit. I’d hand it over to mum and she would sometimes have me help during various stages of the improvised recipe which I thought was even more special!  It was being able to create something so delicious out of my hard work which gave the family pleasure and always made to feel so proud. Little old me contributing to lunch!

I remember the sad day when the Council came and tidied up the garden next door. For the friends that I would play with of an evening and weekend, to our dismay they put up a new fence preventing the public and us, from entering. I guess it was to stop anyone breaking into the house which was just as un-kept as the garden which in essence made sense. However, to us we had lost the place we loved to play.  In the fall it gave us an unlimited supply of conkers from the enormous Horse Chestnut tree and in the summer blackberries which ended up as pie filling or simply a snack. However, as time went by I discovered another hole which appeared in that fence, and I’ll be jiggered if I know how it got there…


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